LOMPOC, Calif. – James D. Swartz, 76, of Lompoc, Calif., passed away at home peacefully, in his wife's loving arms, early Tuesday morning (Nov. 6, 2012), following a lengthy battle with pulmonary fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
"Jim" the youngest of six children, was born Dec. 19, 1935, in Salamanca, to Frank and Agnes (Novak) Swartz. He was very proud to say he was a first generation American because his dad was born in Poland.
Upon his graduation from Salamanca High School, Swartz enlisted in the United States Marine Corp. and served during the Korean War. When he returned home, he was employed by Loblaw Foods Co. and attended Fredonia State University. On July 2, 1960, he married the love of his life, Sonja Chamberlain. They have two sons, Mark and Mike.
The young Swartz family moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he was able to complete his Bachelor of Arts Degree in social studies and education at the University of Arizona. The next stop on their westward migration was Lompoc, where the Lompoc Unified School District hired him as an elementary teacher in the Gate Program at Los Berros Elementary in 1964. In 1997, he retired from the same school district and as Principal of Los Berros School, having made a complete circle. During the years, between the beginning and the end, Swartz taught at most of the elementary schools in Lompoc and worked with the G.E.D. program and supervised student teachers and was on the District Job Interview team. During his tenure, he earned a Masters Degree in Education from Fresno State University and General Administrative Credential from Cal Poly (SLO). He was a consummate educator in everything he did and kept imparting his wisdom to anyone till the day he died. He was respected and loved by his family, friends, co-workers, students and their parents. Although the saying "Once a Marine – Always a Marine" is true, he joined the Air Force Reserves and enjoyed a second career simultaneously with his teaching career. He retired from the Reserves in 1997.
Community service was a large part of Jim's life. When his boys were young, he coached their teams in Little League Football and AYSO Soccer. He completed both the Lompoc Police and Sheriff's Civilian Academy Programs and was appointed a member of the Lompoc Safety Commission. He belonged to the American Legion Post 211, was a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus, and a Life Member of the Lompoc Elks Lodge. During his retirement years, he volunteered with the Community Kitchen Program at La Purisima Church, and the Sansum Medical Clinic Auxiliary. To his own delight and that of the staff and patients at Sansum, he loved being "Santa" during the holidays. As a docent, he enjoyed being the "Leather Man" by day or a "Padre" during candlelight programs at the La Purisima Mission.
One of his favorite hobbies was fishing. He fished the central coast waters whenever he could. But Seward, Alaska became his love and he had great stories to tell. He also loved to play in the dirt and raised great quantities of tomatoes and was always willing to share his harvest.
Survivors include his loving and devoted wife, Sonja; sons, Mark (Vicky) of Lompoc and Mike of Santa Barbara, Calif.; grandchildren, Tamera (A.J.) Hernandez, Christine Swartz, Sonja Janos, Lynn Janos and Tina Linderholm (Danny); great-grandchildren, Cienna and Adrian Hernandez, Anthony Janos, Jarrod Chavoya; several nieces and nephews; and his ever faithful "furry" companion "Pep."
He was predecesed by his parents; his siblings, Elizabeth and John Zochowski, Paul, Carl, and Richard Swartz; daughter-in-law, Dawn Swartz; and a nephew Jacky Zochowski.
Services and burial were held for Salamanca native James D. Swartz, 76, in Lompoc, Calif.
Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Msgr. McGrath Scholarship Fund c/o La Purisima Catholic School, 213 W. Olive St., Lompoc, Calif. 93436.
Published in The Salamanca Press from Nov. 17 to Dec. 13, 2012