Mary Jo Swenson, 80, of Belmond passed away Thursday, September 27, 2018 at the Rehabilitation Center of Belmond.
Memorial services for Mary Jo Swenson will be held on Monday, October 1, 2018 at 1:30 PM at Ewing Funeral Home, 111 Luick’s Lane South in Belmond. Burial will be in the Belmond Cemetery.
Memorial visitation will be held on Sunday, September 30, 2018 from 5:00 – 7:00 PM at Ewing Funeral Home and will continue one hour prior to services on Monday at the funeral home.
This is the story of Mary Jo (Benson) Swenson. Mary Jo’s story started on February 6, 1938 the second child to Bennie and Lillian Benson. Mary Jo was born in Hancock County, Iowa. She was a wonderful woman that was loved, is missed, and will always be cherished. An amazing wife, mom, daughter, grandma, she was also a baker of homemade buns and rolls like no other could be.
In 1955 she met Sidney Swenson, a tall Marine. After walking into the Mello Maid restaurant, where Mary Jo was a waitress at the time, he asked her on a date on the spot. He says it was “Love at first sight!” Less than a year later, on May 20, 1956 the two eloped and were married in Albert Lea, Minnesota.
On August 4, 1957, their daughter Teresa Ann (Swenson) Hanna was born. Not long after, on November 3, 1958 their son Andrew “Andy” Jennings Swenson came into the world.
Never one to shy away from a debate, or campaigning for a cause…in 1973 Mary Jo became the first ever woman to serve on the Belmond City Council. A true trailblazer for other women, she was a very active member of the League of Women voters, and chosen by ABC news as a reporter for election results. She was also the membership chairman for the Iowa chapter of the Federated Women’s Club of America.
Mary Jo was renowned for her cooking and baking skills. Everyone always knew they would have plenty of homemade delicious food to eat while they came to visit. Her other passion and legacy was preserving the environment. In 1989 Mary Jo became a founding member of the Belmond “Trees Forever” chapter. She was integral in the process of bringing the Franklin Grove Heritage trail to life, and for keeping it lush and beautiful. One of the perks for other members of the organization was Mary Jo’s amazing cookies. Known to many as the “park lady”, she also kept the Belmond City Park colorful, weed free, and an enjoyable place to spend time with friends and family for decades. Sid joined her on many occasions to help…and learned how to take orders like, “Do this…but no, not like that, Sid!” In May 2017 the Belmond City Park Board dedicated a bench to Mary Jo to recognize all of her achievements in the park.
Her little red kitchen was a sign of just how unique and independent she was. An avid collector of antique Halls kitchenware, she was always proud of her ability to find good bargains that looked incredibly classy. Mary Jo always knew what she liked, and her red hair and lipstick were staples of her signature look.
“Grandma Joey” spent a lot of time with her only granddaughter, Erica – who was born on May 20, 1981 – Sid and Mary Jo’s 25th wedding anniversary. They shared a love of things like HGTV, speaking your mind, and cinnamon rolls.
Her memory will live on in the lives of her husband; Sid Swenson, children; Teresa (Steven) Hanna, Andrew “Andy” Jennings Swenson, and granddaughter Erica Hanna. Two sisters, Marlene Merriam and Alyce (Glenn) Nordell; and also numerous other extended family and friends.
Mary Jo was preceded in death her parents, sister Connie Johnson, and brother David Benson.
Memorials may be directed to Belmond City Park or Franklin Grove Heritage Trail.
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