Heidi Helga Swanson

April 12, 1929 - February 1, 2022

In Loving Memory

Heidi Helga Swanson

Heidi Swanson passed away peacefully on February 1st 2022, at the age of 92 years. Heidi’s life was full of travel, adventure, curiosity and creativity.

She was born In April 1929 in Copenhagen, where her Austro-Czech-Italian-Hungarian parents, Paul and Bianca, were setting up one of many branches of her father’s family assurance firm across Europe.  Before the age of 10, Heidi had already lived in Czechoslovakia, Austria, Italy, Holland and Belgium and spoke 4 languages which she kept, and added to, throughout her life.

In 1939 the family left Europe to settle in Montreal, Canada.  Within 4 years, having arrived with little English, she won the provincial prize for an English essay, and then came top of all graduation exam entrants.  Heidi’s greatest gift was a belief that she could, and should, do whatever she most enjoyed, regardless of gender, age nationality or any other expectations. Awarded a scholarship to study Biology at McGill University at the age of 15, she enjoyed it so much that in order to stay at University as long as possible she then pursued a PhD. She loved her time at McGill, making lifelong friends through the skiing, hiking and camping adventures of the McGill Outing Club.

After University, Heidi and her friends embarked on a transatlantic crossing to tour Europe. Elmer was on the same ship and they then travelled Europe together, ultimately marrying in Tunisia and over the 62 years until Elmer’s death, took their unique approach to life through the USA, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, and Spain, often more than once in each country.  In each location she took up hobbies and friends – wine-making, cine-film club, painting, sailing, crafts, animals, travel, while maintaining her full-time job and raising the family.

Skiing was her lifelong passion. Starting in an age of climbing up the mountains with furs on the skis, she only stopped in her late 70s, having ensured that children and grandchildren were all, in their turns, exposed to the sport.  Heidi and Elmer also loved to sail and swim, as well as water-skiing, kayaking, camping, and whatever other activities might come their way on her travels and holidays.

Heidi also loved animals and nature, leading her to become a research scientist in animal behaviour, with many published papers and worldwide collaborations and conferences, along with lecturing medical students in Histology. An early member of Friends of the Earth, she was already campaigning for nature and animal charities in the 1970s.

Heidi hated being bored, and never stopped finding new activities and experiences. Leading by example, the family were encouraged to travel, take up hobbies and never be limited by convention or expectations. Heidi’s outlook was always positive; she believed that you should only think about and remember good things, that people were generally helpful and friendly, and that there was always something new and interesting to do.

Without fuss or concern for external approval, Heidi’s life was individual and inspirational in a generation with low expectations for women, and high expectations of social norms.  She truly lived her life as she wanted to: accommodating, loving yet uncompromising in her choices, and happy with what she made of each day.   

Heidi leaves behind her children, Noel and Mitzi, grandchildren Joshua, Ben, Luke and Emma, and countless relatives and friends, all carrying a legacy of her example and inspiration.  A life to be celebrated and remembered.

Arrangements entrusted to

Cypress Funeral & Cremation Services 250-558-0866

Condolences may be expressed to the family by phone or email through Cypress Funeral & Cremation Services:

T: 250-558-0866

4417 29th St,
Vernon, BC V1T 5B7

E: [email protected]

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