Barbara Storma "Stormee" Swanson (née Amling), of Gresham, Oregon, went to be with her Lord and Savior on June 23, 2012 at age 71 after a brave battle against cancer. Barbara was born on September 15, 1940 to John W. and Beatrice L. Amling in Los Angeles, California. She had two younger brothers, John and Raymond. The family was in the floral business and moved to Portland when Barbara was a young girl. Barbara graduated from Franklin High School in 1958. She attended Willamette University briefly then transferred to Washington State University, where she received a degree in education and met her future husband, John Robert "Bob" Swanson. The couple married in August 1962, soon after Barbara's graduation.
Teaching jobs were scarce for a new graduate in the academic town of Pullman, Washington, so Barbara took a job in the Physiology Department at WSU as a secretary. When the next school year rolled around, she was able to secure a teaching position with Pullman Public Schools where she taught for two years. During the summer of 1965, the couple left Pullman and moved to Durham, North Carolina where Bob pursued a post-graduate education at Duke University. In March of 1966, they had their first child, a daughter named Anne-Marie. Barbara continued to be supportive of her husband's post-graduate endeavors as they moved the family to Philadelphia where Bob pursued an additional post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. A son, Andrew John, followed soon after in January of 1968. Barbara gave birth to their third child, Michael Amling, in June 1969. Three weeks later, Barbara made the cross-country journey with her newborn and two toddlers back to the Portland area where her husband had taken a faculty position at what was then University of Oregon Medical School (now known as Oregon Health & Science University). In 1969, the family purchased a home in Beaverton.
With a passion for education, and her children on the verge of school age, Barbara spearheaded efforts to persuade the state to fund public kindergarten for Oregon's children. Barbara continued to be involved in social and political causes, and worked to elect leaders such as Nancy Ryles to the Oregon legislature. She completed a M. Ed. at Portland State University in the 70's. In 1979, the couple divorced and Barbara began a new phase of her life as a single mom to her three children, in whom she instilled a strong work ethic and sense of self-worth. She continued to reside in the Beaverton home until 1988, allowing all three of the kids to spend their childhood and teen years in this home.
Barbara established a business, the Centering Foundation, and taught numerous professional development workshops through Portland State University and Portland Community College. She creatively developed courses to include fun with learning, such as holding classes during rafting trips along the Deschutes River or at Carson Hot Springs. Some courses were Left Brain/Right Brain Thinking, T.E.T. (Teacher Effectiveness Training), and P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training). Concurrently, she trained as a counselor and began her own private practice.
Throughout her life, Barbara pursued spirituality in many forms, including immersing herself in New Age philosophies, as she searched for meaning in her spiritual life. However, in the early 1980's, Barbara was drawn to a fast-growing neighborhood church, Beaverton Foursquare, where she became a born-again, spirit- filled Christian bringing her back to her childhood foothold when Sunday School at her family's Lutheran church was her favorite part of the week. As her relationship with the Lord continued to grow and her faith deepened, she developed a strong intercessory prayer life, as well as an active ministry to immigrants and the poor, which she pursued for the rest of her life.
Once the children left for college, beginning in 1988, Barbara was on the move, pursuing her own learning and advocating for underprivileged and needy families. She spent time in Costa Rica and Guatemala, learning Spanish in order to better work with English Language Learners. She also became more deeply involved in ministering to others and nurturing her own spiritual life. In the early '90s, Barbara moved back to her birthplace, Los Angeles, to do mission work with in the inner city poor. She returned to Oregon in 1994, and applied herself to teaching ELL in the Portland Public & Reynolds School Districts. During summers, she organized groups of teachers to attend Escuela Entegrada, an intensive Spanish language program in Antigua, Guatemala. Through her work in the classroom, Barbara identified a little-known Mexican minority group, the Purepetcha, who required a unique approach to English Language Learning. In order to address the needs of this disadvantaged group of people, she found funding, travelled to, and developed ties to their indigenous communities in Mexico.
Barbara had other talents and interests, as well, including writing. In 1993, she co-wrote a cookbook, Tortillas! with her cousin, Pat Sparks of Tustin, CA. The book was published by St. Martin's Press.
After retirement from the Reynolds School District in 2005, she continued her service to others. She spearheaded a ministry program to immigrants through City Bible Church, in which volunteers learned to tutor adult English Language Learners in the community. Barbara began buying rental properties and was the beloved landlord for five families at the time of her death. From time to time, she paid her tenants' utility bills when their paychecks did not arrive in time. She faithfully delivered free dishwasher detergent each month to tenants who paid their rent in a timely manner.
Barbara will be remembered as a high-energy, creative and purpose-driven woman. While she was strong and independent, she also had a light-hearted, whimsical side. She was relentlessly positive and cheerful, and gave encouragement to everyone she met.
She enjoyed spending time with her children and grandchildren, camping and hiking on the McKenzie River and on Mt. Hood. Every Christmas, she hosted a day of cookie baking and crafts for her grandchildren. For several years, she spent every Saturday evening enjoying 'dinner and a movie' with her aging father; when she was forced to discontinue this tradition in February 2012 due to her illness, it broke her heart.
A celebration of Barbara's life will be held at Sunnyside Foursquare Church in Happy Valley on Thursday, July 12th at 11:00. A slideshow will begin at 10:30. A luncheon at the church will follow the service. A burial service will follow at Sunnyside Chapel of the Chimes. Barbara is survived by her father, two brothers, her three children and their spouses, and five grandchildren. Her mother preceded her in death.