Age 79, of Marshall, passed away at home on Friday, June 7, 2019. He was born May 5, 1940, in Owosso, the son of Lee and Leona (Smith) Swender.
He grew up on the family farm near Ovid amidst a large, extended family. His household consisted of grandmother, parents, sister, aunt, uncle and four cousins. Three adjacent farms were also owned by aunts, uncles and grandparents. His family worked 300 acres, raising Hereford and Holstein cattle and Leghorn chickens. From an early age Norm learned to care for livestock and operate farm machinery, assisting in the many chores required by the operation. Except for time away at school or the military, he continued helping on the farm until the property was sold.
His education through the eighth grade took place in the one room school located about a mile from his home. He was a 1958 graduate of Ovid High School where he was a member of the football and baseball teams.
After attending Michigan State University, he enlisted in the United States Army on Feb. 18, 1960, “…a rare privilege to join with others in defense of the nation that Abraham Lincoln called the world’s last, best hope.” Following basic and further training in signals intelligence, he went on to serve two years overseas: first, in Germany during the 1961 Berlin Crisis and then on Okinawa during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. He was honorable discharged on February 11, 1963.
After his discharge he returned to MSU, earning a B.A. degree in 1965. It was also while at MSU that he made the acquaintance of Rose Pichette.
In 1966 he moved to Marshall, taking a job at the State Farm Regional Office in the underwriting department. Several years later he accepted a job with the federal government. He retired from that position in 2006 after 30 years’ service.
On June 29, 1968, he and Rose Pichette were united in marriage at Holy Family Church in Grand Blanc. They have made Marshall their home since then, raising their four children and welcoming eight grandchildren to the family.
Norm enjoyed sports, especially hockey. He was an ardent softball player, participating in various city leagues for many years. As a youth on his family farm, pheasant hunting was a favorite fall activity. A college history major, he had a lifelong fascination with the subject, especially the military campaigns of the 20th century and the Civil War. He also enjoyed solving the cryptic crossword puzzles found in English newspapers.
Whatever life’s distractions, family was always paramount for him. He and Rose were proud of the accomplishments of their daughter and three sons. He also took pride in his farm heritage, his military service and his Swiss-German ancestry.
He is survived by his wife and best friend of fifty years Rose; daughter Catherine of Mobile, Alabama; sons Stephen (Letty) of Saginaw, David (Michelle) of Marshall, and John of Marshall; 8 grandchildren James, John, Teresa, Claire, Henry, Sylvia, Andrew, and William; and sister Colleen (Rolla) Gruesbeck of Ovid.
Family will receive friends from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Kempf Funeral & Cremation Services in Marshall. A prayer service will follow the visitation at 7 p.m. Funeral mass will take place at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 212 W. Hanover Street, Marshall. A mass of Christian burial will follow at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be directed to St. Mary’s Catholic Church or the Fountain Clinic. Friends may send condolences or share a memory at kempffuneralhome.com.