American Veteran 04

Gary Kent Swanson

December 27, 1934 ~ May 30, 2022 (age 87)


With his family close by, Gary passed away at home in Broomfield from complications of Parkinson’s.

Born in a room above a garage in Independence, Missouri to John A. Swanson - (b.1902 - d.1994) and Augusta May (née Martin) (b. 1898 - d.1967), Gary moved with his mother and grandmother to Greeley and then Ft. Lupton, Colorado when he was two years old - and always considered himself a native. Gary was an only child.  

In Ft. Lupton, Gary’s mother ran a bar and grill where Gary had odd jobs to help out after school. He liked to spend some of his free time across the street at the auto dealer talking to some of the older boys who were mechanics, and saw them as role models. Rather than focusing on school, Gary was more inclined to work with his hands, solve problems and help out his mom. Nicknamed Swede, he was known around town as a reliable helper from a young age. When Gary was a junior in high school he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps.  Gary left Ft. Lupton in 1953 for basic training in California and boarded a ship bound for Korea. The ship made a pit stop in Japan where a handful of soldiers disembarked, including Gary. Gary remained in Japan for the entirety of his military service and worked as a helicopter mechanic for aircraft used in the Korean conflict.

Upon return state-side and needing to make a living, Gary walked into an aircraft hanger looking for work. The boss on duty that day who had been struggling with a mechanical repair said ‘if you can fix this, you’ve got yourself a job’. This set off his career in aviation. Gary worked in Denver and briefly in Cheyenne, Wyoming before returning to Colorado. In 1956 in the then-fledgling commercial passenger travel industry, Gary applied for a job with United Airlines where he worked for 38 years. Gary started as a mechanic and spent two years in the late 50’s working at SFO in San Francisco before returning to Denver. Gary’s job evolved from working in the hanger to later working at the United Flight Training Center at Stapleton Airport as a flight simulator technician and supervisor until he retired in 1994.  

Gary met his future wife Cynthia (Cindy) Marvel one Friday night in April 1967 at the College Inn in Denver.  Among many other things, they discovered their mutual love of popcorn (this would eventually be passed on to their children). They were married a few months later in December. Gary and Cindy remained in Denver and surrounding suburbs and raised three daughters. After the nest was empty Gary and Cindy spent some time living on the Western Slope before returning to the Front Range to be close to grandkids.  

Gary loved to build and fix things. He finished the basements of three houses, built back porches and decks, dog houses and all manner of storage boxes and chests. He was self-taught and took a belts-and-suspenders approach - everything he built was sturdy! Gary patterned and reproduced a cat rocking chair that was built by his Swedish grandfather for a new generation of children in the family. One of his other passions was making wooden bowls. Many of his creations have found their ways into the homes of family and friends over the years. He also loved Blue Spruces and other trees and planted many of them at each of the places he lived.

Gary didn’t have much of a formal education but was interested in learning about many things and was lucky to enjoy more than 28 years in retirement. Among other things, he read books and articles about the human genome, rammed-earth technology, Leonardo da Vinci, linear accelerators, and space and astronomy. He bored his wife with endless anecdotes from his readings of biographies of Winston Churchill and Harry Truman (until he could get the attention of one of his daughters or another unsuspecting victim). He was a lifelong fan of Albert Einstein, John LeCarré novels, and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. He also enjoyed reading some Hemingway and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was amused by Boris Johnson’s hair, refused to be pinned down politically or any other way, and loved watching shows about cars and history. More recently he was fascinated by what he could learn on YouTube.

In the 60’s Gary used to buy tickets to the Broncos at King Soopers and later was a season ticket holder (Mile-High stadium, east side, 20 yard line above the press box level).  He loved hockey, locally DU Hockey and the old Colorado Rockies team from the 70’s before the long NHL ‘hockey wasteland’ (his term) period prior to the Avs coming to town. And he followed the baseball version of the Rockies.  

He was also a lifelong stubborn person, loved to tell stories and occasionally push the buttons of his wife and children. 

Gary loved his family deeply. He cherished Cindy and thought she was an angel, and was very proud of all of the accomplishments of his kids and grandkids.   

Gary is survived by his wife Cindy, their three daughters, Kim Swanson of San Francisco, Pam Ziegert (David) of Lafayette, and Sara Smith (Bill) of Colorado Springs, and grandchildren Henry, Ella and Greta Ziegert, Collin and Patrick Smith, step-grandchildren Lauren and Andrew Smith, beloved cousins from across the country, and Sugar the cat.

Services will be held on Monday June 13th at the Lionsgate Event Center, 1055 US 287, Lafayette, Colorado. Gathering will start at 1pm at the Gatehouse, with remembrances starting at 1:30. All are welcome to join in celebrating Gary’s life. An RSVP is not required, but if you plan to attend and are able to, please send us a note at

Lastly, we acknowledge that COVID is still a concern and respect choices regarding mask-wearing.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to one of his favorite organizations below, or any organization of your choice:

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

Disabled American Veterans

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Memorial Tree
A Memorial Tree was planted for Gary

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Memorial Service

4:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Lionsgate Event Center
1055 US-287
Lafayette, CO 80026

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