Margaret Francis ’73 Swieringa
Peg Swieringa died unexpectedly on February 23 at the family home in Custer, WA, of heart failure. All who knew her mourn at her loss. Our light is gone but the glow remains.
Peg was born on May 26, 1951, in Midland, Michigan, to Joe and Molly Francis. She was born on the opening day of trout season and every local doctor was out fishing, so she was delivered into the world by the county coroner. She often reminded her trout-fishing husband of this irony.
She grew up helping run the family nursery business with her sisters, Becky (Doyle), Barb (Rogers) and brothers Dave and Eric Francis. Joe purchased recreation property Up North on Selkirk Lake and the family has many fond memories of days swimming, fishing, and camping out at Selkirk. She acquired her mom’s optimistic happiness and her dad’s enthusiasm for life, and stayed close to her Francis family throughout her life.
She attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan where she met a big open-armed dutchman and they married after her graduation in 1973. Their adventure together began when they left Michigan two days after the wedding and headed out West in an orange Volkswagen camper. Gerry likes to say it was a honeymoon that lasted 50 years. They settled in Bellingham where Gerry did grad school while she worked in various capacities including nursing homes, pre-schools, patient care facilities, landscape nurseries, and any other roles that played upon her heartstrings. Watching children and gardens grow were her greatest joys.
Their daughter, Amanda (Warner) was born in 1981. By then Gerry worked in the Mobil refinery and they bought their first house in Ferndale. They became active members of St. Paul’s Episcopal church and church activities loomed ever larger in their lives. They moved to Custer in 1992 and Peg finally had the home she dreamed of, a place to raise a family as well as chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, quail and a garden. Amanda married Nathan Warner and grandchildren followed.
Peg survived breast cancer and the attendant chemo therapy and radiation treatments. But the damage to her heart was done. She would live another 20 years, but her heart would never again be as strong as it was.
Gerry left the refining world in 2010 to enter ordained ministry as an Anglican Priest so she became a clergy wife. It was a calling suited to her. St. Brendan’s Anglican Church in Bellingham became her second home. She became active in A4D, a church revitalization program. Her circle of friends expanded to include folks from all over the diocese of Cascadia and Canada as well. Peg shined her light of generosity and kindness in everything she did. She was “Nana” to her grandchildren, and these were the happiest days of her life.
Gerry retired as rector of St. Brendan’s in November 2022, and they planned a future life together on their Custer property. A trip to Michigan over Thanksgiving would be her last reunion with the family she loved so much. Shortly after they returned, her heart began to fail and her pacemaker could not save her. She died without warning on Thursday, Feb 23, 2023, while working outside at the home she loved.
Her love lives on in our hearts. Those who miss her terribly include her husband, Gerry ’72, daughter Amanda Warner, son-in-law Nathan Warner and grandchildren Zoe, Simon and Isla Warner and Morgan Cajinjin. One daughter, Mikki, deceased, is now at her mother’s side. Her brothers and sisters and various aunts, uncles, cousins, and shirttail relatives complete the circle.