Harold Otto "Coach" Swanson
1935 - 2020
Harold Otto "Coach" Swanson

of South Milwaukee died Mar. 2 at Froedtert Hospital after experiencing a fall at home. He was born April 20, 1935, in South Milwaukee to Carl Swanson and Marion (Zimdars) Swanson. Harold had a long career: successful athlete, middle school teacher, a 59-year career as a tennis teacher and coach, and a lifetime as a counselor and mentor to anyone who had a need. Harold graduated from South Milwaukee High School in 1953. He was a starter and captain of the basketball team that won the Wisconsin State High School tournament in 1952. He went on to attend the University of Minnesota where he lettered for four years in basketball and tennis, serving as captain of the tennis team for two years. Following college, he taught at LeRoy, MN, and then returned to the University to earn an MA degree. He taught tennis for two summers at the Rochester, MN, Tennis Club. He then returned to Milwaukee where he served as the first tennis pro at the Western Racquet Club in Elm Grove, a position he held for 10 years. He also taught middle school in South Milwaukee. In 1970 he joined the faculty at The Prairie School in Racine teaching Middle School, coaching boys' and girls' tennis teams and running a busy lesson schedule in the summer.

He taught in the middle school until he was 66 and continued coaching tennis until he was 81.

He is a member of the Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame for Wisconsin.

Harold married Kathryn Lindall in Westbrook, MN, on June 9, 1962. She survives him. Harold and Kathryn had three children: Kristen Swanson (Walt Reichelt) of South Milwaukee and sons Dr. Thor and the Reverend Erik (Melinda) of Barberton, Ohio. Thor preceded him in death in 2015. Grandchildren are Siri Reichelt of South Milwaukee; Trina, Kari and Johanna Swanson of Sioux City, IA, and Kathryn, Lydia, Hannah and Isaac Swanson of Barberton, OH.

He is also survived by one sister, Inez Stracke, Walnut Creek, CA. He was preceded in death by two siblings: Betty Lou Welbes and Carl Swanson. He is also survived by brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews.

The memorial service is Saturday, March 7, at 1:30 pm at Trinity Lutheran Church, 2507 5th Ave., So. Milwaukee. Friends may call from 12 - 1:30 pm. Memorials may be made to the Harold Swanson Scholarship at The Prairie School, 4050 Lighthouse Dr., Racine, WI, 53402, or to Trinity Lutheran Church.

To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from Mar. 3 to Mar. 4, 2020.
Calling hours
12:00p.m. - 1:30p.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church
2507 5th Ave., So. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Memorial service
Trinity Lutheran Church
2507 5th Ave., So. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Funeral services provided by:
Molthen-Bell & Son Funeral Home
Sponsored by Molthen-Bell & Son Funeral Home.
Add a Message
9 Entries
Coach Swanson was one of the kindest and most generous people I've ever met. I feel lucky to have spent 4 years playing tennis with him and learned just as much about life and how to live as I did about the game.

As Pat mentioned in another message, he always made time for his students. I remember even on Thanksgiving Day he would drive down from South Milwaukee and we would run drills for a few hours in the morning just because he had the time to give.

I'll never forget the importance he placed on doing everything in life with a "touch of class." Truly a larger than life figure and an incredible human. He will be dearly missed.
Tyler Sanchez
March 24, 2020
"Spider" was my first mentor when I was recruited for the SM girls' tennis coach position in 1973. I had never had a chance to be on an athletic team, but after Title IX, Jim Teff knocked on my door and announced my new appointment. Harold was such a great student of the game, and he was always willing to share his coaching hints and newest ideas. My hope is that we get that book published, as an inspiration to all of our lives influenced by Harold.
Trude Mihalovich-Pletcher
March 7, 2020
Jennifer Qualley
March 4, 2020
He was my favorite teacher and friend! He will be always remembered and missed! R.I.P. spider❤
Janet Cook
March 4, 2020
So sorry to hear of your father's passing. You are in my thoughts in this time of sorrow
Diane Schadewald
March 4, 2020
As you go through life do as much good as you can, for you pass this way but once. Harold was one of the kindest, generous persons on this earth.

Thoughts and prayers for the family.
Karen Chapko Fairbanks
March 4, 2020
Harold was multi-talented as teacher, historian, coach, weatherman (often humorously shared with me), mentor, and friend. He was a gentle force in all he did with grace and kindness. Not only was he a treasure to the Prairie School, he was a gift to all of us. Thanks, Harold, for being in our lives.
Linda Zolnosky
March 4, 2020
Swanee and I had some of the best conversations in the middle of the parking lot between the old Prairie gym and the theatre entrance. In snow storms, on the fly, and in the sweltering heat of the summer - we'd linger and talk and talk. He always was in it for the students, not the wins. In it for the people and not for their grade points. As a young teacher I noticed he came to plays and musicals - not just athletics; he taught me how much supporting your students and colleagues - truly supporting them from the bottom of your soul - can mean. Long, long after the school connection has faded the life connections endure. Thank you, Swannie.
Pat Badger
March 4, 2020
Diane Breach
March 3, 2020