February 10, 1938 - July 22, 2020
With grateful hearts we remember the lasting influence of his life on ours. Russ was born in St. Louis, MO to Edward and Marie Swekosky on February 10th, 1938. He attended Holy Family Catholic School, St. Mary’s High School, and Harris Teacher’s College. Russ was involved in sports activities throughout his school years. He lettered in soccer, track, and football. His soccer and football teams won conference championships and were inducted in the St. Mary’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Not only was he a stand out athlete, but he coached teams in the Catholic Youth Organization that took championships. Boy Scouts played an important part of his life as a youth and as and adult. Russ worked at Boy Scout Summer camps as a Director, and has been honored with two Order of the Arrow Awards for his service in the Scouts. His given Indian name for the Scouts was “Wullnaxin,” which is interpreted as “Good Looking One!” Russ had a remarkable talent and love for teaching and coaching. During his 40 year career, he had coached and taught a wide variety of subjects and sports in St. Louis, MO; Oak Ridge, TN; Columbia, MO; Foyil, OK. His longest tenure was as a P.E. teacher at MacAuthur Elementary for 24 years, where he was named teacher of the year for the 1982-1983 school year. After retirement in 1997, he would continue to teach as a substitute in Broken Arrow Public Schools and Vo Tech Schools. He delighted in being able to make a difference in the days of his students. His gift of making learning meaningful and fun through field trips, camping, classroom guests, and hands on activities was acknowledged by student and parents. Students were excited to go to school when he was going to be their teacher. Russ’ true devotion was to his family. He proposed to Rachel in front of the Broken Arrow Post Office at 12 noon. He promised her “The Magic of Ordinary Days” with faith, love, and family. They were married on Aug 5th, 1972. Through their nearly 48 years, they have shared their love of teaching, travel, and devotion to 3 terrific sons, whose school activities, sports, and family vacations took Russ to places he never dreamed to go. His new love was two grandsons with whom he could stomp leaves, take for walks, and give high-fives. His prayer was to bless his “little buddies,” Henry and Samuel. Russ is survived by his wife, Rachel Story Swekosky; three sons – Jason, Jared, and Jonathan and his wife Mallory, and grandsons Henry Russell and Samuel Richard Swekosky. He also leaves behind sisters Alice Kopsky and husband Paul, Gail Szymula and husband Don; and brother, Jim Swekosky and wife Shera; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. He is preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Marie Swekosky; and his brothers by another mother, Beryl Ortwerth and Paul Ryan. ————————————————— My Father Tribute by Jonathan Swekosky A mountain of a man I felt invincible when I rode on his shoulders or he took me by the hand He guided me through so many “firsts,” one at a time Letting me believe each success was all mine As I grew, his formidable presence never diminished It could always be found, when needed, just off in the distance Never did I fear his disappointment He was my pillar of quiet encouragement As I gripped my bat or toed the line He was always in the corner of my eye I could turn to see him demonstrate a level swing with an imaginary bat Or just wait until the dust settled, for a pat on the back Rarely did I have to go to him for advice He showed me every day, how to succeed at life COMMIT, WORK HARD, BE POLITE And love your Bride, with all you MIGHT His commitment to his wife had few exceptions Thankfully, when it came to his boys being boys, he used a little “discretion” No doubt a product of his “Streets of St. Louis Education” He knew sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission So, he made sure we knew, if we called, he’d show And mother didn’t always have to know For loyalty and commitment were certainly at his core With these virtues, he showed me what living was for Teaching life lessons and showing compassion This is what he chose as a profession His rewards were thousands of grateful parents and students Over the course of 40 years of attendance Lifelong friends in Beryl and Paul You could write a book on all they did and saw They spent half their lives together traveling near and far Years went by, but you could tell by the smile on his face, when they had called Pride in his roots Oh, how he loved sweet St. Lou! He jumped at the chance to talk about his city As long as you didn’t bring up the 1985 World Series! His true pride that lies in St. Louis, was his family Siblings Alice, Jim, and Gail and loving parents, Edward and Marie Whenever they were together laughing and telling stories He lit up like a Christmas tree All these things made Russ a great fortune Achievement, fulfillment, and those he could lean on Russ would also proclaim he struck GOLD When he married Rachel to have and to hold Only to grow even richer with 3 equally committed and loyal sons Jason, Jared, and his favorite, Jonathan There are many tales and laughs between the lines above The most important thing to be said, though, is he was OURS, and he was LOVED. ———————————— A Tribute to My Father: By Jared Swekosky Our father was a soft-spoken man of few words, but when he spoke, you always stopped and listened. He had that kind of presence. He wasn’t a complicated man. You always knew where he stood. He loved his family, faith, sports, teaching, his hometown of St. Louis, and especially St. Louis Cardinal baseball. One thing he didn’t like was being called an Okie, however, because he was a proud Missourian born and bred through and through, and he could never understand the funny way Okies did things. But he raised his family in Oklahoma because above all else, he loved our mother more than anything in this world. She was his wife, confidant, best friend and the love of his life. It was easy to tell because he always had a certain gleam in his eye when she walked in the room. He would have done anything for her and often did. My brothers and I learned how to be gentlemen just by watching how our father treated our mother. It was a gift he gave us probably without even realizing it. He raised his sons by leading by example. He installed in us at a young age the importance of hard-work, determination, compassion, and character. If you want it, you have to work for it, and it won’t always be easy. But he guided us through the rough patches, stood by us during the hard times, and never missed the opportunity to celebrate with us during the victories. Regardless of the journey we were on, there was Dad, steadfast, always supportive and usually giving us that Missouri grin, letting us know everything was going to be okay. He would go without so his boys didn’t have to. No fuss, no regret, just doing what he needed to do for his family. Until we got older, we never even realized the sacrifices he made. He was our constant rock and role model. He also affected the lives of his students in the same way he raised his family. We would frequently run into people that would recognize our last name and they would always share a story about how Dad impacted their life. These were students of his that now have families of their own and some of their children had my father as a teacher as well. That’s the kind of lasting impact our father left on the world with generations of young students. How blessed we were to be raised by such a man. You think when you get older you won’t need your parents as much anymore. The truth is, you need them more. We were fortunate enough to have the guiding hand of our father well into our adulthood. Selfishly though, it’s never long enough. In Proverbs 22:6 it says to “train up a child in a way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I only hope we can live up to the example our father has set for us. He is forever in our hearts and will be missed everyday. —————————————— By Jason Swekosky My father was a very faithful person, although it might not be what we first think about him, because he was so deeply private. If he could make it to mass, he went - every weekend whether we were here in Broken Arrow, in St. Louis, or on vacation, my father found a way to church. His faith was always quiet and always humble. We did not receive lectures on verses, or really lectures on many things, however when I think of my father, I think that… My father didn't tell me how to live my life; he lived and let me watch him do it. There are a few stories that I want to tell that show what kind of man my father was. I do want to point out that, except for living outside his beloved “Show-Me” state of Missouri, my father lived his life exactly how he wanted - meaning he got to live with my mother; the love of his life...All other decisions in his life were negotiable based on former statement. Eventually, he did settle into life in Oklahoma - sometimes referring to himself as a "Show-me" Indian. For instance, when I told him that I would no longer break rule 'x' or break rule 'y' he would tell me that I had to "show him" as he was a “full-blood Show-me Indian." The first story that, I want to tell the story about how my dad bought me cross county ski's when I was seven or eight - cross country because, well, we live in Oklahoma. For my birthday he made up a scavenger hunt, giving me clues that I had to figure out in order find the next clue that led me under a rock, up a tree, and through a gutter, until I finally found the cross country ski's. It was a glorious day! Well, I found the ski's, but to use them we were going to have to wait until it snowed. Sure enough, we happen to get some snow the following winter. So, when it snowed, my dad took me down to ski the renown powdery slopes of Central Park Broken Arrow. Everything seemed to be going just fine that day, until I got a swooshed down little too close to the edge of the creek and fell through the ice. Now, even though we all know that the creek at central park is not very deep…but, I was in a bit of trouble, because when I tried to stop at the edge, I ended going in head first and breaking through the ice. I’m sure that I had become a bit worried being tied up and headfirst halfway through the ice… but, there was my dad...to pull me out. So many times in life we judge our relationships not necessarily by what we say, but how we feel when we're with that person. My dad didn’t say much, but complete security is how I felt with my father...and to an extent there was the fear of discipline sometimes...but, mostly security. Even when we would get lost going somewhere – I know my uncle Don would like me to mention the time my father got lost driving in Tower Grove Park with my grandfather – which is the equivalent of getting lost at the Gathering Place here in Tulsa. The only difference is my father and grandfather lived directly across the street from Tower Grove Park. But even with this penchant for getting lost, I never really worried when I was with him. I knew that he would take care of us and everything would be fine. Everybody talks about how my father was a man of few words but let me assure you that when he spoke it was loud. Now, perhaps he raised his voice for one person in particular more than others... I remember once after a phone call with either Paul Ryan or Beryl my mother would remark, "Russ, your second language must be yell..." Boy did I know it... As a child, there were six words that especially always gave me pause that were also spoken by my mother, they were: "Wait til your father gets home." What I realized then, when my mother said those words, was that my luck had run out. What I realize now as an adult, is how lucky I was that he always came home. He was always there. Always there to guide us by example, always there to give us the best opportunity in life, and, for both my displeasure and later appreciation, he was there to discipline us - but, again, that was probably mostly for me. Many decisions that I have made through life were directly influenced by my dad. My love of travel and commitment to visit each of the 50 states were because of him (I out did him by one state, but I think he wanted it that way). My athletic choices: soccer, football, and shot put in track were solely decisions made because I wanted to be like my dad. Many of the successes that I had were because I thought my dad would be tough in this situation, or because I really wanted to show my dad that I could, on occasion, surpass what he had accomplished in order to make him proud - and he was. I do want to note that my two brothers and I did probably have better coaching than he did. Although, not today in this suit, I clearly share a similar fashion sense as my father. My everyday outfit is still blue jeans, a flannel, and some tennis shoes...yeah, that looks GREAT! He gave me this fashion accessory, an authentic Dukes of Hazzard watch after he took a trip to Georgia, or so I thought. In reality, my father bought the watch from the Broken Arrow Wal-Mart before he left on his trip and put it into his luggage in order to not pay high tourist prices for Hazzard County’s most notable residents while in Georgia - and then he gave it to me on his return. Yes, my father knew how to save money. I would never call him cheap, to his face. Frugal...yes... The second story that I would like to tell...Now, my mother will agree with this - at our house my father did most of the cooking, most of the cleaning, most of the mowing, and most of the breaking – as all of us probably know he broke everything that he touched. My dad was a workaholic in the truest sense, meaning that he enjoyed being busy. It was because of his self-sufficient prowess that I really learned who I was dealing with in our relationship, let me give you an example. It was a hot Oklahoma summer day and my buddy Long Jon and I had been out in the field East of our neighborhood the day before... (Long Jon was the nickname my grandfather gave to him and we all just went with it). We really enjoyed practicing our trap making, hole digging, and fort building out in that field all during the summer. It was probably after an afternoon of watching Escape From New York, starring Kurt Russell as the indomitable Snake Plissken, on cable TV, that we decided to cut down some saplings and fashion them like the various types of weapons that we saw in the movie. I think we made some nun-chuks and cable TV inspired what-have-you's...you can use your imagination here. Well, we finished up and put all of the weapons into the garage so that we could tie them to our belts the next afternoon and be on our way. Now, my father was a person who went through life quietly and briskly and learned that that in marriage it was usually easier to ask for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. In this instance, a few days earlier, my mother had told him to not do whatever was his current practice completing a task as it had become an annoyance to her in some way. Well, I took note when he had inexplicably done exactly what my mother had told him not to do...and I, being of similar ilk, was one hundred percent in favor of his transgression, or at least the spirit of said infraction. However, upon mine and Long Jon's return to the garage, we found that our masterfully crafted weapons had been confiscated. It just so happened that my father was working in the yard just outside the garage. So I said, "Hey dad, have you seen the weapons that Long Jon and I made?" He said that he certainly had seen them, and that they would not be returning to their rightful, hardworking owners. Well, I said. "Dad, if you don't give us our weapons back, I will be forced to tell Mom about how you violated her direct orders." My father didn't miss a beat, (and forgive him for this mother) he said, "Uh huh, and what exactly is she going to do...not cook my food, not wash my clothes, not clean up after me?" Clearly my dad was not terribly afraid of taking a good talking-to (or as he called it - being balled-out) from my mother. He didn't like being balled-out, but certainly he wasn't afraid of it. What was, however, more important was the quintessential point he was making to me, which was, "If you can take care of yourself, and be self sufficient - there isn't a whole lot to be that people can hold over you in this world." But I can tell you from firsthand experience, it sure doesn't hurt to have somebody there to save you if you fall through the ice. My parents were married for almost five decades (today would have been there 48th anniversary) - my father was a man of consistency and loyalty. Because of my dad I learned how to have meaningful lifelong friendships. Besides my mother and his brother and sisters: my Aunt Gail, Aunt Alice, and Uncle Jim - he made his best friends like Dr. Beryl Ortwerth and Paul Ryan as a kid growing up in his neighborhood, he went to school with them, he played sports with them, he went to church and to scouts with them. He kept those friends who were close to him like his brother and sisters for their entire lives. I watched him, I learned from him just because I was lucky enough to have him around. Like I said earlier… My father never told me how to live my life; he lived and let me watch him do it. —————————————— Memorable Stories and Things you might not know about Russ- Page 1 The first time his wife ever saw him, was when a friend made her go with her to spy on some “handsome guy” eating breakfast in the cafeteria at Northeastern University. He had a very “Glen Campbell” look at the time that attracted the ladies. Some even followed him to Mass on Sunday to get a glance. We would joke, he was doing the lords work! Never known to gamble, he actually won his future wife’s wedding ring in a poker game in college. When Rachel met his friends for the first time, they warned her not to let Russ open any jars of jelly for her. He only had two modes, on or off, and always gave it all he had, so he was known to crush glass jars in his hand. To get Rachel to agree to travel with him to Freeport, Nebraska to work a Boy Scout Summer Camp, he had to agree to take her cat along with its 4 kittens! One the way back those kittens were full grown and were loose in the car. Rachel recalls with laughter all the faces of the gas attendants that saw Russ pull in with a cat in his lap and one on his shoulder. Russ loved to travel with his friends and family, and visited every state in the U.S., except for Hawaii. At his first teaching job at St. Johns High School in St. Louis as the girls P.E. coach, a female teacher refused to let him in the girl’s locker room where his office was, because she thought he was a student trying to sneak in. He coached his youngest sister in softball. She said he was tough and if you forgot to wear your jeans on the day they practiced sliding, you were out of luck. He taught Science, English, History, and P.E. during his years of teaching. As well as coaching football, baseball, soccer, women’s softball, and women’s basketball. He also taught gymnastics to all of his elementary students at MacArthur Elementary, and ended the year with a gymnastics meet for parents to attend and see their new talents. While teaching at MacArthur Elementary in Tulsa, he was known to take groups of students, who might not have ever had the opportunity, camping for the first time or to their first TU basketball game on the weekend. One of his former students was country radio personality, Storme Warren, who said he loved Russ’ P.E. class, and he even taught him how to fish. Memorable Stories and Things you might not know about Russ One of his most successful years of coaching, was as the coach of his youngest son’s first soccer team. They achieved the record of 0 wins and 0 losses. They tied every game, but all his players got to play important positions. Every kid felt like a star, and that is what he valued most. Russ’ faith grew because of life’s challenges~After teaching a few years, Russ was notified that he would have to get more credits. He moved to Oakridge, Tenn., then decided to go to Parsons College and then to Northeastern State where he met Rachel. Some friends arranged a blind date for Russ and Rachel a couple of weeks before summer school was over. Russ was so shy a friend took him to the pay phone, inserted the dime, dialed the number, and handed the phone to Russ so he would ask Rachel out for a first date. Russ' hobby was Rachel. He was always content being wherever she was, doing whatever she was doing. This paid off at a sewing workshop, when Russ played "bingo" with the girls and won a sewing machine for Rachel. Russ was often reminded of the positive impact he had on others when he ran into former students. One such student followed in his footsteps and became the P.E. teacher at MacArthur's Elementary. Another, stopped him in Wal-Mart just to say he is teaching his children just like Russ taught him in P.E. class. Russ received a phone call one morning from a mother who told him that her child was excited to go to school because Mr. Ski was going to be his substitute. During a conversation, Rachel asked Russ, “Just who loves you more than I?” He instantly looked to her and answered, “Jesus.” Favorite song: Jesus Loves Me Bible verse: John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 -------- A Celebration of life will be held at Floral Haven Funeral Home's Family Center on August 5th, 2021 from 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm.
With grateful hearts we remember the lasting influence of his life on ours. Russ was born in St. Louis, MO to Edward and Marie Swekosky on February 10th, 1938. He attended Holy Family Catholic School, St. Mary’s High School,... View Obituary & Service Information
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