Obituary — Robert Kenneth Swanson
A celebration of his life will begin at 3 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Alamo Heights Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas, for Robert Kenneth Swanson, who died Oct. 23, 2002. He was 80.
Mr. Swanson was born Aug. 7, 1922, at Kansas City, Mo., and grew up in Oklahoma City, Okla., and McAllen, Texas. Early studies in engineering at the University of Texas, Austin were interrupted in 1943, when he enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Navy. As a 20-year-old cadet, he married Carole Williams of Houston, a move entirely against Navy regulations, but the beginning of a 60-year-long love affair. After graduation from Naval Flight School Pensacola, he continued as a flight instructor before being assigned as a pilot with VBF-13, a fighter squadron of F6F Hellcats, based on the USS Saratoga in the South Pacific. Prior to being sent to the Pacific Theater, he was based at Fallon Naval Air Station and first discovered the beauty of Lake Tahoe.
At the end of World War II, he returned to civilian life and finished his studies at the University of Houston, obtaining a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1947. The first 16 years of his professional career were spent in the field of petroleum engineering in Houston and Pampa, Texas. During this time he developed and patented several ground breaking electron exploration and performing devices used in petroleum exploration. In 1963, he accepted a position as senior research engineer with Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. He had an illustrious 23-year career at SwRI, culminating in his retirement in 1990 as director of electronic physics in one of the world’s foremost private scientific research entities. As assistant director he headed up a project that led to new ultrasound bridge safety detection instrumentation. This technology helped stem a raft of failures of older American bridges, which had become a national bridge emergency. He also worked on projects for NASA space missions, top secret government projects including the forensics and destruction of the infamous bugged U.S. Embassy Building in Moscow and early experimentation in the 1960s with lasers and holography. Above all else, he was proud of his involvement in developing alternative energy sources. He directed the design and installation of the first commercial wind energy application in the mid-1970s in Clovis, N.M. Mr. Swanson remained throughout his life interested in energy matters and was a nationally recognized expert in many related fields, including geophysical and geothermal energy production.
He was a frequent visitor to Lake Tahoe and thought of it as his second home. He spent many summers enjoying hiking and photographing the area. His proudest accomplishment in life was his family. He always found time to spend with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He taught two generations of Swansons how to crawl, walk, run, swim, fish, fly, write, speak in public, tune up a car, play tennis, cook, photograph, fix things, think and be a parent. Above all else, his lessons of fatherhood and the memories of his humor and wit will be forever remembered and treasured by all who grew up influenced and loved by him. He will be dearly missed by his family.
He is survived by his wife, Enid Carole Swanson of Dallas, Texas; brother, Donald Swanson of Dallas; children, Dr. Keith Swanson and his wife, Laurie, of Lake Tahoe, Steve Swanson, Janet Biechlin and her husband, Rusty, of San Antonio, Roger Swanson and his wife, Lena, of San Francisco, Calif., and Richard Swanson and his wife, Cheryl, of Austin, Texas; step-daughter, Jan Scarborough of Boston, Mass., 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his granddaughter, Ashley Biechlin.
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