Photo courtesy of R.L. Williams, Jr. Funeral Home

Richard S. Schweiker

1926 - 2015 (Age 89)


July 31, 2015


R.L. Williams, Jr. Funeral Home Obituary

Richard Schultz Schweiker of McLean, Virginia went to be with the Lord on July 31, 2015. Born on June 1, 1926, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, he was the son of the late Malcolm Alderfer Schweiker and Blanche Reiner Schultz Schweiker and the loving and devoted husband of the late Claire Joan Coleman Schweiker.

Dick was valedictorian of Norristown High School. At 17, he enlisted in the Navy and served in World War II on the aircraft carrier USS Tarawa. In 1950, he graduated Pennsylvania State University Phi Beta Kappa. He majored in psychology. He was president of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, president of the Forensic Council and Debate Team, and a member of the Lion's Paw.

From 1950 to 1960, he served as president of American Olean Tile Company in Lansdale, PA, the country's leading manufacturer of ceramic tile. On September 10, 1955, he married the love of his life, Claire Joan Coleman. Claire was the original "Miss Claire" on "The Romper Room," a daily, hour-long television program for pre-school children at Philadelphia TV station, WFIL. The two met on a blind date and six weeks later were engaged and enjoyed 57 years of marriage. Dick and Claire deeply believed that they were put on this earth to be of service to God and their fellow man. This belief, as well as the death of his older brother, Malcolm, who was killed in action in World War II, led him to run for Congress.

In 1960, at age 34, he won election to the House of Representatives, where he served on the Government Operations and Armed Services Committee. He co-authored the book, How to End the Draft, which presented the formula later used in creating a volunteer army. In addition, the "Schweiker Act" of 1965 provided for cash awards to military personnel who suggested money-saving ideas. The Schweiker Act has resulted in savings of over $1 billion to taxpayers. He was re-elected to the House in 1962, 1964, and 1966. Dick ran for the Senate in 1968 and defeated incumbent Joe Clark. He won re-election in 1974 with 53% of the vote, highest of any US Senator from Pennsylvania since 1946. In both Senate elections, he was the only victorious GOP statewide candidate. In the US Senate he was ranking Republican on both the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and the Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, the two Senate units which controlled both authorizing legislation and appropriations for labor, health, education, aging and public welfare matters. Few senators, especially Republicans, have reached such a key dual position. Dick was also ranking Republican on the Health and Scientific Research Subcommittee, and a member of the Senate Appropriations and Rules and Administration Committees. He also served on the Armed Services Committee, Joint Economic Committee, Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, and Technology Assessment Board. Dick served on the Committee to Investigate the Assassination of JFK. His defense and foreign affairs experience included serving 17 of his 20 years in Congress on either Armed Services Committees or Foreign Operations, Defense/Military Appropriations Subcommittees. As ranking Republican on the Health Subcommittee, health issues and prevention became a passion of his. He worked in drafting and supporting legislation to combat diabetes, cancer, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, and lead paint poisoning. Some other major legislative concerns: comprehensive health care reform including lower health care costs, preventive health care, blood program reform, job training for the unskilled, civil rights, eliminating unreasonable regulatory and paperwork burdens imposed by government, tuition tax relief, controlling unfair imports, pension reform, black lung benefits, mine safety, conversion of coal to clean-burning natural gas and fuel oil, economy in government, skyjacking protection, and halting federal support for abortion. He was one of the first GOP Senators to call for Nixon's resignation. He has been the leader in the fight against diabetes and authored bills creating the National Commission on Diabetes Advisory Board and passage of the National Diabetes Act in 1972. These events led to increased funding for diabetes through NIH and NIDDK and became a prototype for legislatively constructing a research effort across all NIH institutes and the CDC. For his tireless effort on behalf of those with diabetes, he was fondly referred to as "The Patron Saint of the Pancreas" by the diabetes community.

In 1976, he was selected by Ronald Reagan to be his GOP vice presidential running mate. In 1980, he served as Reagan's northeastern states campaign chairman. On January 22, 1981, he was sworn in as the 14th Secretary of Health and Human Services, serving in President Reagan's first cabinet. As HHS Secretary, he led the effort to set up a prospective payment system to control Medicare costs, which was the first reform of Medicare since its inception. He also led the fight for full funding of biomedical research and initiated new regulations to revise and expedite the new drug approval process. He started a Medicaid anti-fraud program saving millions of dollars. Throughout his government career, he proved to be a man of deep faith, strong convictions, and a tenacious advocate.

Dick retired from public service after 22 years; and in 1983 became President of the American Council of Life Insurance, a position he held until his retirement in 1994. During his tenure there, he preserved the inside build-up on life insurance policies and eliminated proposed taxes on annuities and corporate-owned life insurance. After retiring from the ACLI, Dick was an active board member of many health related groups, including Tenet Healthcare and Partnership for Prevention.

His faith was the catalyst for his community and church service. Dick was raised at Central Schwenkfelder Church in Lansdale, PA and worshipped at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Washington, DC. He received nine honorary doctoral degrees as well as dozens of awards and honors. He enjoyed golf and skiing, and his favorite activity was spending time with his five children and twenty-three grandchildren, especially in Ocean City, NJ. It was there that he spent his last week on earth with much of his family. He passed away due to complications from an infection and was surrounded by all his children and most of his grandchildren. He is survived by his five children Malcolm (Kathleen) of Oak Hill, VA, Lani (Bill Shelton) of Herndon, VA, Kyle (Jim Hard) of Fairfax, VA, Rich (Mary Michael) of Richmond, VA and Kristi (Tom Carey) of Napa, CA. He is also survived by 23 grandchildren, Bennett, Ryan (Sarah), Patrick, Kevin, Collin, Sean, and Garrett Schweiker, Jessica (Creigh Greensmith), John, Ellie, and Sarah Shelton, Kelly, Chad, Savannah, and Christian Hard, Richard, Claire, and Michael Schweiker, Rachel, Brett, Jack, Samantha, and Troy Carey; and one great grandchild, Ava Claire Schweiker. In addition, he is survived by his sister, Sylvia (William Strasburg) of Worcester, PA.
A Burial Service, interment, and reception will be held on Saturday, August 29, at 2:00 PM at Central Schwenkfelder Church, 2111 Valley Forge Road, Lansdale, PA 19446. A Celebration of Life Service and reception will be held on Sunday, August 30, at 12:30 PM at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 4900 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008.

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My deepest sympathy to all the Schweiker family. It was a privilege to be a part of your father's U.S. Senate staff. I deeply respected your dear parents - they were so honest and kind - and I admired their devotion to each other and to their children. God bless and comfort all of you.

To the whole Schweiker Family: We send our greatest sympathies to you all on the death of your father. Your mother and father were two of our favorite people at St. Paul's Church, and we will always remember them fondly. May God bless each of you with fond memories, and a legacy of love to uphold. Bob and Barbara Pillote

My former husband, Joe McDade, if he were well, would join me in mourning the loss of, not only your father, but your mother as well. Your father was elected in 1960 and we came in 1962. We were friends from the start, both being GOP from PA.
We now have to grieve both partners in marriage. The two were the finest,most caring people on the planet! God bless the Schweiker family. We
will always remember with love.

Good memories from long ago in Worcester and Ocean City. Prayers for all the family for a wonderful dad and grandfather.

my condolences to the family. May the God of all comfort prove to be a stronghold and a refuge for the family (Psalm 18:2)

My sympathy goes out to the family during your time of grief. May God's loving - kindness comfort and help you through this difficult time (Psalms 119:50,76)

I will always be indebted to Dick Schweiker when he gave me the privilege to serve as an intern in early 1969 in his first year as one of Pennsylvania's most illustrious Senators. God's peace to the family.

Sympathy & kindest regards to Dick Schweiker's family & multitude of friends wherever they may be. God bless 1 & all. Take care.