Theresa Swanson Obituary

Theresa  Swanson
Theresa Swanson
Theresa Swanson

July 24, 1938 - December 26, 2020
Born in Mount Clare, IL
Resided in Clive, Iowa
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Theresa Marie Swanson, née Magelli, passed away on December 26, 2020 at 12:04 AM. Theresa grew up in Mount Clare, IL, the youngest of nine children to Italian immigrants. Her father worked as a coal miner in Southern Illinois. Her love of reading and frequent visits to the local library inspired her to dream of travel and to see the world. With her energy and intelligence, she earned a scholarship and graduated from Blackburn College in Carlinville, IL in 1960 with a BA in Mathematics. In 1961, she married her husband of fifty-nine years, Harold. Three weeks later, Harold enlisted in the US Air Force and they moved to San Antonio, TX. Over the next nine years, they lived in thirteen different locations around the United States and enjoyed learning about local food and culture from lobster boils in Massachusetts to pit roasts in the Mojave Desert.

Theresa had a diverse professional career; from Fortran programmer for the Air Force, to junior high Math Teacher and member of the Logan School Board in Princeton, IL, to Technical Writer for Pioneer Hi-Bred. She continued to enjoy her love of travel and visited many places with Harold that she read about in her youth, including the United Kingdom and Europe. In 1984, they visited the Italian village where her parents came from, Castel di Casio, and connected with relatives from this area. In 1995, Harold and Theresa moved to Shanghai, PRC for three years, where she edited the Expat Association Newsletter and travelled with Harold throughout China and Asia.

After retiring to Des Moines, IA, she dedicated her energy to earning 800 ACBL master points at the Des Moines Bridge Center, travelling and spending time with her children and grandchildren, producing the St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church newsletter and was a founding member of the FreeStore, a Des Moines based charity which provides furniture and household goods to individuals in need. She and Harold volunteered for 19 years at the FreeStore, where Theresa served as Board Chairman and continued as an active volunteer and board member until her death.

Her commitment to charity included providing extra services to FreeStore clients such as working with local restaurants to package unused food for clients to take as a meal on “moving day”. (Having moved 18 times herself, she knew how comforting a warm meal is for families when they move.) Her empathy extended to many kindnesses that she gave to others throughout her life. In 2018, Theresa was honored with the Service to Humanity Award from Blackburn College and the Iowa Volunteer of the Year award with Harold.

During the Covid shut down and with declining health, Theresa still found happiness in creating and giving to others. She made and donated over 800 masks for the Navajo Nation and the Rosebud reservation. Her generosity touched many lives and will live on through multiple generations of family and friends. Theresa is survived by her sister Janette; husband, Harold; children, Kathy, John (Tina), Anna and Amy (Joe) and seven grandchildren. A private service was held on Monday, December 28 at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Des Moines. In lieu of flowers, the family humbly requests donations to the FreeStore at Please visit to sign the guest book and leave online condolences.

Arrangements by Iles Westover Chapel.






Free Store
834 - 10th Street
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