While doing what he loved, traveling, Willis Swan passed away on June 21, 2018 with his loving wife of 61 years, Janet, at his side. He had contracted, along with many other passengers, a shipboard infection while enjoying a cruise on the Rhine River near Mainz, Germany.
Willis was born April 11, 1932 in Los Angeles, California to Willis A. Swan and Sarah Johnson Swan. He moved to San Francisco at a very young age and then to Oakland, California attending Oakland schools and the University of California at Berkeley. He served in the Naval Reserve at Alameda and on active duty at Widby Island, Washington being discharged in January 1957. He transferred to the Mackay School of Mines in 1957 graduating as a mining engineer in 1959.
He met his future wife, Janet Heald, at U.C. Berkeley while on a Cal Ski Club trip to Sun Valley, Idaho on winter break. Willis’ family had skied for years on Donner Summit and Willis had been a ski patrolman at Soda Springs. Janet, too, was crazy about skiing. They were married in Berkeley, January 6, 1957 and honeymooned at Sun Valley, Idaho. Ironically, they grew up less than one mile apart but she attended Berkeley schools, and he attended Oakland schools.
Willis started his mining career in Washington State, north of Colville, 15 miles from the Canadian border working for the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company. Later, he moved to Palo Alto, California working for Utah Construction and Mining Company, and then for American Smelting and Refining Company at Selby in the San Francisco Bay Area where he was in charge of the gold and silver smelting and refining division. When this plant closed, rather than transferring to Ironton, Missouri and leaving the West, he moved to Fallon to work for Kennametal, Incorporated as a metallurgical engineer. He retired 26 years later in June 1997. He was a California Registered Professional Metallurgical Engineer.
Willis was elected to the Fallon City Council, Ward I, in 1993 and served for 16 years. He served on many city, county, and Nevada boards with various agencies. He was president of the Churchill County Economic Development Authority (CEDA), chairman of the Lahontan Valley Economic Environmental Alliance (LEVA), served on the Churchill County Planning Commission, the Carson Water Subconservancy District Board, and the Nevada Rural Housing Authority (NHRA) for over fifteen years where he was chairman for three years until his death. He was also still on the board of directors of the Fallon Youth Club.
Willis was active in the Nevada League of Cities starting in 1993, received the Public Official of the Year Award in 1998, and served as president in 2000 – 2001. Willis also served as President of the Fallon Kiwanis Club. He was an Eagle Scout and led a cub pack and was Boy Scout Troop leader during his son Alan’s scouting years. Alan also became an Eagle Scout. Willis felt it was an honor to serve his community and state which he loved, and the wonderful people who live here.
He is survived by his wife, Janet Swan, daughter, Elisabeth (Betty) Swan Pelsh / John of Fair Oaks, California, sister, Sylvia Gard / Richard of Juneau, Alaska, brother, Benjamin Swan of Camptonville, California, sister – in - law Phyllis Heald Reichle of Sonora, California and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews,great nieces and nephews, and his sweet, very loved dog, Dugan. He was preceded in death by his son, Alan Willis Swan at 37 years in 1997.
Willis enjoyed his many years at the family cabin at Fallen Leaf Lake, California where summers were spent swimming, hiking in the Desolation Wilderness Area, and boating. He served as a volunteer board member of the small, private Fallen Leaf Mutual Water Company for 37 years and president for 35 years until the time of his death. The water company, serving 106 stockholders, benefited from his engineering knowledge as it grew in complexity to meet ever increasing California state regulations.
Willis had a passion for travel, and on family vacations toured much of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico later reaching out to the UK, Spain and Portugal. After his retirement in 1997 and Janet’s in 1998 (after 22 years as Churchill County Community Health Nurse ) they took two major trips per year . Their journeys spanned the globe with wonderful adventures from riding camels in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, to attending the opera in Budapest, visiting the jungles of Panama, seeing Komodo Dragon lizards in Indonesia, and to the Pyramids of Egypt. Studying trains was also a life – long hobby and he rode many historic trains in the West.
Willis will be missed by those who knew him as a kind, honest friend, a loving husband, a devoted father and a dedicated public servant. He loved animals and hated any form of animal cruelty.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations made be made to the Fallon Youth Club, The Churchill County Arts Council, the Churchill County Museum or a favorite charity.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, August 6th at 12:00 noon at the Valhalla Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, CA, at the Tallac Historic Site.