Robert Paul Swartz died on May 2, 2023 at the age of 93. Born on November 14, 1929, he was the son of Paul Driver Swartz and Grace Bechtel Swartz. Married for 65 years, his wife, Ruth Wert Swartz passed away in 2019. Robert (Bob) had been living at the Souderton Mennonite Home since the fall of 2021. He leaves behind three children: Tim (Rachel) Swartz of Spring City, Ted Swartz of New York, (Sue Althouse Swartz of Harrisonburg, VA) and Tina Burkholder (Jay) of Philadelphia, PA. He has eight grandchildren: Eliot (Katrina); Ian (Hannah); Derek (Chelsea); Zach (Joy), Jordan (Regina), Grace, Konrad (Jill) and Kathryn, and eight great-grandchildren: Mona, Hattie, Josie, Alison, Jenna, Ezra, Ellis, and Elinor.
Growing up in the context of his Mennonite community, which included his large extended family, was deeply valued by Bob. He worked on the farms of uncles as a teenager and developed life-long friendships with cousins. As a young man, two service stints greatly influenced his life. He worked in a mental health facility in Topeka, Kansas for one year through the Mennonite Voluntary Service program. He enjoyed sharing stories from that time; we did not hear so much about the solo motorcycle ride back home in the rain!
In 1951 Bob joined the first group of young men who rebuilt homes in Espelkamp Germany through the PAX program, a new volunteer project under Mennonite Central Committee. This year was an extremely important time for him, opening his world and strengthening his convictions of the importance of peace making throughout the world. The unusual indulgence of a vanity plate for his car attested to how precious this time was: his license plate read PAX1-51.
Pursuing his spiritual development and making relational contact with others were vital to Bob. He and Ruth were members for many years at Pottstown Mennonite Church. He loved the Church and invested hours of time as the Franconia Mennonite Conference Youth Fellowship Director, led several young men’s groups, and often entertained (with Ruth’s cooking) young men who appreciated his care and counsel. He taught Sunday School for much of his life; he loved offering space and time to others, to listen without judgment. He and Ruth moved to Vincent Mennonite Church in the mid-80’s where their membership remained until their deaths.
Bob’s employment as a young married man was as a “milkman” at Sunny Slope Dairy until 1966. He and Ruth then purchased a grocery store in Spring City which they ran for 20 years where he became known as a hospitable and generous store owner. He then worked as a meat cutter at Bodick Bros in Kimberton for another 20 years.
After he retired as a meat cutter, he and Ruth ran a popular fruit and vegetable stand at 413 Ridge Road where he sold his beloved strawberries. He cared more about his customers than he did about making a profit; he welcomed them with an invitation to share their life stories. Many did.
Bob had a lifelong curiosity of theology and the life of the church, spending many hours in reading, conversation and debate. He journaled daily, writing both his thoughts on scripture and processing his emotions. He loved his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, his face lighting up when they would visit. Bob was almost always seeking connection with others through laughter, singing, silliness, eager to provide encouragement and support. He impacted the lives of many people with his simple generosity of heart.
The family’s celebration of Bob’s life will be held May 27 at Vincent Mennonite Church, 39 Seven Stars Rd, Spring City, PA 19475 Visitation will begin at 2:00 and the service will be at 3:00. You are invited for a light supper and further fellowship after the service.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Bob’s name to Mennonite Central Committee. All arrangements are being handled by the Shalkop, Grace & Strunk Funeral Home, Spring City, PA.