Susan Swavely - Widow of Late Popular Local Pastor
It is with deep sorrow and much love that we announce the passing of Susan Swavely on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, at age 94.
Susan was born on August 10th, 1928, at her family’s “homestead” in the beautiful rural area of Sugarloaf, PA. The fourth born to the late Merald and Helena (Heckrote) Yost, she was named in honor of her Auntie Sue who lived at the homestead with Susan and her family. Susan enjoyed 10 years being the baby of the family before her younger sister Patricia arrived. Her formative years were simple and happy: she enjoyed attending a one-room school house, collecting elderberries to make jam, swimming in the mudhole, and partaking in other outdoor activities. Christ Lutheran Church in the nearby village of Conyngham was the center of Susan and her family’s social life.
She left the one-room school to attend high school at West Hazleton High School, where “Suzie” was known for her sense of humor and genuine friendliness. After graduating from West Hazleton in 1946, Suzie attended the original Lankenau Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia, where she lived and learned with fellow “probies,” many of whom would become life-long friends. On breaks, Suzie usually traveled by train between Sugarloaf and Philadelphia but occasionally would be given car rides by friends. On one of these car rides, she met the love of her life and best friend, John Swavely, who was at the time studying at the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia.
Suzie graduated from Lankenau in 1949 and continued to work for a time in Philadelphia. She dreamed of marrying a Lutheran pastor, and in July of 1952, her dream came true when she married John and became more commonly known as Sue Swavely, the pastor’s wife. (John enjoyed introducing her as his “first wife.”) Although Sue continued her nursing career throughout her life, she was an equal partner with John in his calling, serving as his unofficial assistant pastor in the parishes he served, including in Mountain Grove, Rothsville, Petersburg, Gordon, Alburtis, Centerport, and Jim Thorpe.
Sue and John welcomed son Paul in 1953, followed quickly by Mark, Becky, and Judy. Sue was a devoted wife and mother all while faithfully continuing to serve in both nursing and church capacities. Sue was a church organist and choir director, teacher for both Sunday church school and vacation Bible school, and member of the altar guild, and she held various officer positions in the Lutheran Church Women Association. Sue had a special passion for stewardship and served on stewardship committees for many years in most of the churches she and John served. She and John went on to have two more children: Martha, who sadly was killed by a drunk driver, and Carol, born shortly after Martha’s untimely death.
After John’s retirement, Sue continued to be active in the church, serving on church councils, search committees, and as a popular substitute organist for several local congregations. She was a faithful member of the “Knotters” at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lehighton, a group of dedicated women making quilts. She also was an active volunteer at Red Cross blood mobiles, local well baby clinics, and at St. Luke’s Manor/Pavilion in Hazleton. Sue retired from nursing in 1993 after last working for 12 years at the Gnaden Huetten Nursing and Convalescent Center in Lehighton.
Sadly, Sue lost her beloved daughter Becky in 1998 to leukemia, and her husband John died of the same disease in 2001. Sue cared for each throughout their illnesses.
In 2005, Sue moved from Jim Thorpe to Coopersburg, where she spent 15 happy years with her daughter Carol (and husband Joe) and two of her grandchildren. Sue soon was more commonly known as Nana, a loving and giving woman and the true center/matriarch of the entire family. Nana hosted all the holidays, insisting on preparing full feasts for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Her Christmas curry buffet will be forever remembered but never duplicated.
In her later years, Sue experienced many exciting adventures with her sister Pat, her best friend Carol from Lankenau, and her family. Until the end of her life she was exploring and learning, never losing her curiosity for the rapidly changing world around her. In Coopersburg, she served as her daughter’s “teaching assistant,” helping homeschool her grandchildren and shuttle them to their various activities. Nana taught her granddaughter Rebecca how to cook and knit, and Rebecca became an active member of the Knotters with her grandmother. Nana enjoyed her grandson John’s many tricks and jokes and his uncanny resemblances to his Pop-pop John. Nana’s piano playing was the inspiration for John’s and Rebecca’s accomplishments as pianists themselves.
In summers, she enjoyed regular swim outings at her daughter Judy’s pool. A lifelong learner, she only learned to swim in her mid forties. She loved the water and enjoyed a swim in Judy’s pool just a few weeks before her death.
Sue enjoyed all of her grandchildren and was thrilled to have a reunion with Jason in mid-September, read many of Angie’s articles in various newspapers, and appreciated Lindsey’s willingness and ability to help with sewing needs.
In April 2021, Nana moved into Fellowship Community in Whitehall, where she quickly became known for her sense of humor, pleasant demeanor, willingness to help anyone in need, and her daily sing-a-long piano performances. Before having a fatal stroke on September 26th, she played games of bingo and crazy eights and had a favorite dinner. She was spunky and having fun right up until the end.
Nana/Sue will be remembered for many things, including her famous peanut butter balls, delicious fruit salad, quick wit, ever-present smile, and continual generosity. We will remember her guessing games at the Yost family reunions and her love of music, especially hymns and marching band “numbers,” as she called them. She enjoyed reading, especially James Patterson novels, and would never turn down a board game, game of cards, or a bowl of ice cream. Sue also enjoyed doing puzzles and made sure to knit a blanket whenever a baby arrived.
Nana was a model of strength and positivity who never wanted to be a bother and kept an upbeat outlook on life. Even in difficult times, Sue had a welcoming smile for friends and strangers alike. Her generosity and love will be missed by many.
Sue was predeceased by her husband Rev. John Swavely, son Paul Swavely, daughters Becky Moyer and Martha Swavely, and grandson Philip Swavely. She is survived by son Mark (Theresa) Swavely, daughter Judy (Bob) Haupt, and daughter Carol (Joe) Derham. She also leaves behind grandchildren Jason Moyer and his daughter Alex, Angela Haupt, Lindsey Geist, Rebecca Derham, John Derham, sister Pat Pisaneschi, and son-in-law Bill Moyer. Sue’s best friend and former roommate, Rosie Laury, continues to live life to the fullest at Fellowship.
Sue lived a long, wonderful life, and her family would like to thank her friends, church family, the staff at Fellowship Community, and the doctors, nurses, and other helpers at Lehigh Valley Health Network Hospital and Hospice who helped make this possible.
A celebration of Sue’s life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 15th at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 474 Vine St, Bethlehem, PA 18015. All are welcome.
Last, in lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial contribution in honor of Sue to the ELCA World Hunger program: https://www.elca.org/hunger. This was Sue’s favorite charity; she never wanted anyone to be hungry.