Presita el Usona Esperantisto № 2023:5–6 (sep-dec)

Robert Swenson, devoted and generous Esperantist

Lasta ĝisdatigo: 2023-12-31

Robert Swenson, who was very active in the Esperanto movement in the United States for many years, passed away on December 11, 2022 at the age of 85. Recently, Esperanto-USA was informed that it is the beneficiary of a generous charitable bequest from his estate. To learn more about Mr. Swenson’s life and activities in Esperantujo, so we searched our archives and also contacted his daughter Karen Swenson, who has generously provided additional information.

Trained as a chemist, Mr. Swenson was employed for many years as a chemical engineer and also worked as a research director for a company he cofounded. According to his daughter Karen, he loved his work in science and loved music, but his greatest love was for Esperanto, which he learned in 1963, the year Karen was born. That same year he became a member of the Esperanto League of North America (the prior name for Esperanto-USA), regularly donating generously to the organization and eventually serving as a board member. He was a member of the Esperanto Society of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and was a board member of that club. He also often hosted Esperanto meetings at his home and sometimes taught informal Esperanto courses. Karen remembers that he “played all the Esperanto records in the world” in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mr. Swenson was also a lifelong member of UEA and was a delegate of the Universala Esperanto-Asocio for ten years. He attended the Universala Kongreso at least twice, including those in in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1977 and in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2005; he also attended national Esperanto conventions in the US nearly every year for many years. Although his wife Ann was not an Esperantist, she attended many of these events with him.

Karen says her father encouraged her to say “mi volas lakton” when she was a toddler sitting in her high chair. He also taught his grandchildren Esperanto phrases. She remembers that he urged her to go to NASK to study Esperanto when it was a 3-week course in San Francisco; she attended twice and still can understand Esperanto very well, though her speaking ability is “a bit rusty”. She herself was a member of the Chicago Esperanto League, even serving as its president, and helped teach a basic course. She has fond memories of accompanying her father to the Universala Kongreso in Iceland in 1977 and attending the opening ceremonies there.

Mr. Swenson was very likable and very religious, according to his daughter, who said “he didn’t have an enemy in the world”. He became an orthodox Christian at the end of his life.

Robert Allen Swenson was born on October 30, 1937 in New Ulm, Minnesota, to Hilding and Mayme (Sogn) Swenson, and was a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. He is survived by his daughter, Karen Swenson; granddaughter, Laurel Majercik; sister, Linnea Ulrich; nephews, Matthew and Brian Ulrich; and niece, Tammy Fjeld. His wife, Ann Swenson, passed away in November 2001.

Esperanto-USA is very grateful for Robert Swenson’s admirable and steadfast devotion to the Esperanto movement, and for his generous bequest, which will help our organization serve the Esperanto community in the United States and spread the word about Esperanto for years to come. Koran Dankon!

This article was based in part on the following information:

  • A phone interview by Ruth Kevess-Cohen with Karen Swenson on August 8, 2023

  • ELNA Newsletter #2, 1978, when Robert ran for ELNA’s Board of Directors:

    ROBERT A. SWENSON: Kemiisto, Enketdirektoro por kemia kompanio. Lernis Esperanton en 1963, membrigis en ELNA saman jaron. Dumviva Membro de UEA, Delegito dum 10 jaroj. Ceestis du UK-ojn. Membro de Esperanto-Societo de Wisconsin (Milwaukee) kaj estrarano de tiu klubo. Foje instruis neformalajn kursojn.

  • The following obituary:

    Robert Allen Swenson, age 85, of Janesville, WI passed away on Sunday, December 11, 2022, at Cedar Crest Health Center. He was born on October 30, 1937, in New Ulm, MN, the son of Hilding and Mayme (Sogn) Swenson. He graduated from Winthrop High School, Winthrop, MN and Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN.

    Robert married Ann Marie Arel on September 8, 1962, in Minneapolis, MN. He was employed for many years as a chemical engineer and was one of the founders of Tomah Products in Milton, WI which is currently Evonik.

    Robert had a great love for music and was a member of the Janesville Concert Association. He was a member of the Esperanto League and the American Chemical Society. Robert was a devout member of St. Ignatius Orthodox Christian Church, Fitchburg, WI.

    Robert is survived by his daughter, Karen Swenson; granddaughter, Laurel Majercik; sister, Linnea Ulrich; nephews, Matthew and Brian Ulrich; and niece, Tammy Fjeld. His wife, Ann Swenson preceded him in death on November 9, 2001. His parents and his brother, Don Swenson also preceded him in death.

    Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m., on Sunday, December 18, 2022, at HENKE-CLARSON FUNERAL HOME, 1010 N. Wright Road, Janesville. Father John Chagnon will preside. Visitation will be on Sunday, from 1 p.m. until the time of services at HENKE-CLARSON FUNERAL HOME. In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund is being established. Online condolences may be shared at