The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 24, 2013

Audrey (Bunny) Howard Swanson


— After a brief illness, Audrey (Bunny) Howard Swanson passed away on June 10th from complications from pneumonia.  She was born July 19, 1921 in Madelia, Minnesota to Burt Boynton Howard and Hazel Mary

Spencer Howard of Lake Crystal, Minnesota.

  Audrey grew up on the Howard family farm homesteaded in the early 1860's by her great-grandfather Henry Clay Howard and his wife Deborah (Robinson), and loved sharing the stories handed down of their life as pioneers.  Determined to send her daughters to college, to generate the necessary funds Audrey's mother established a dancehall on their property in the early 1930's called "Lakewood" which hosted traveling acts including the Lawrence Welk Orchestra.

  Audrey graduated from Mankato High School in 1939 and from Grinnell College in 1943.  She worked as a secretary for RCA Victor Company in Philadelphia and as a stewardess for Northwest Airlines during the war years, later becoming a homemaker and community volunteer who headed the 60-member League of Women Voters group in Deephaven.  She stayed close to her neighborhood bridge group, playing together near 60 years.

  Audrey became interested in genealogy through assisting her mother with family research and accompanying her on many trips throughout New England, later continuing research and visiting sites in England related to Spencer/Thompson/Howard and Boynton heritage.  She helped many others search for their ancestors, too.  She and her mother were active members in historical associations in Southern Minnesota and throughout New England.  Audrey gave a presentation on their research at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Spencer Family Association held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, near where her distant relative David Thomson arrived from Plymouth, England in 1623 to establish New Hampshires first settlement.

  Audrey and her husband Clayton enjoyed an active life on lake Minnetonka where they moved in 1956, sharing their home with family and friends from the state Dental Association, Power Squadron and Navy Reserve communities.  Following Clayton's untimely death in 1971, Audrey reconnected with friends from her high school and college years.  In 1992, she was asked to join the Grinnell 50th Reunion planning committee, and from that time forward was regarded by classmates as "the glue that held the class together."  In 2012, she received a prestigious Alumni Award from the College.  Her strong links to the Kato 30-40 Club and Grinnell College brought her great joy and enduring friendships.

  Audrey was a resident of Kingsway Retirement Living in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. On her desk at the time of her death were letters to friends, classmates and family, Spencer family research inquiries, maps for upcoming trips and invitations for her 92nd birthday party.  Audrey was the consummate hostess, the life of the party, and friend to all who knew her.

  Audrey left these words for her children to share:  To the family and friends of Audrey (Bunny) Howard Swanson: We want to let you know that after a brief illness, she turned out the lights here on earth. We feel sure that the activities in the Heavens have opened their arms to her -- bridge, genealogy, The Grinnell College '43 Class Letter -- she is enjoying it all!

  Audrey is survived by her children and their spouses: daughter Candace Swanson Johnstone, Chaska, Minnesota; son David Howard Swanson, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin; daughter Mary Virginia Swanson (Hal Strich), Tucson, Arizona; son Clayton Swanson III (Anna), Carver, Minnesota; grandchildren Melinda Chiselbrook (Brett) and Matt Johnstone, Staci Mackenzie (Doug Henders) and Eliza Swanson, and great-granddaughter Lola MacKenzie Henders; nieces Patricia McCarthy Brady (James) and Janice Huth Byer, and nephew John Huth.  Audrey was preceded in death by husband Clayton Alfred Swanson, Jr. and by her sisters Virginia Howard McCarthy and Dorothy Howard Huth.

  A gathering to celebrate Audrey's life will be held the afternoon of October 5th at The Marsh in Minnetonka; contact Mary Virginia Swanson at mvswanson@gmail.com for details.

  Memorials in Audrey's name may be made to Grinnell College Office of Development and Alumni Relations, Grinnell College, 733 Broad Street, Grinnell,  IA  50112 or Restless Legs SyndromeFoundation, 1530 Greenview Drive SW, Suite 210, Rochester, MN  55902.