Elder Day honors June Swingle

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June Swingle was born in the home of her parents Elene and James Fred Bray on June, 25 1927 in Hamilton, Montana. She is the youngest of her family. Sister Beatrice Elene Bray was born 7 years earlier and her brother Frederick Milton Bray is more than 13 years her senior. June was raised on a diversified farm where she and her family reared dairy cows, pigs, cattle, chickens and geese. During her upbringing she remembers many young men in her town going off to war, some of them going so far as to lie about their age, to enter into service early. Immediately after graduating high school in 1945 June went to work at Rocky Mountain Laboratory (RML). This Laboratory was made nationally famous for the groundbreaking research by Howard Ricketts in identifying the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and had become part of The National Institute of Health. In 1945 RML was producing great quantities of vaccines for use on a national level, these vaccines protected soldiers against spotted fever, typhus and yellow fever. Three years earlier the yellow fever vaccine contained a human based serum, one of the batches of this serum was contaminated with hepatitis. Without regulation testing or quality control, inoculations precipitated an extensive outbreak of hepatitis over the course of four months, affecting some 50,000 United States Army servicemen during World War II. In 1945, June was brought on to support the war effort, aiding Rocky Mountain Laboratories in their development of a safer yellow fever vaccine. In 1946 June moved to Bozeman, Montana to work for Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph. In Bozeman, June met and married Frederick Lee Swingle. She worked in the town for two years while Frederick finished college. The Swingles moved to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1949.  Alaska was a Territory of The United States then and would remain so for another decade. It was in Fairbanks that their daughter Karla Swingle Knapke was born. “It was very different from what is there today,” said June “We moved there in 1949, me and my husband both worked for the Territory of Alaska on the [University’s] Experiment Station.” While Frederick worked on Richardson Army Base, June worked for three years on “White Alice” a Cold-War era military communications system, which spanned across Canada, and 32 sites along the coast and interior of Alaska. “It was an Early Warning System to keep unwanted people out of the air.” she explained.  After working on White Alice, June began work at the phone company owned and operated by the City of Anchorage. She worked there for 30 years. Upon retirement June received a golden bowl from the City of Anchorage as a mark of appreciation for her accomplishments. June confided in her close and elderly friend that, she didn’t quite know what to do with herself in retirement. The Swingles were leaving Alaska to live in Newcastle, California and her friend advised June to get consistent volunteer work, as soon as she was settled in California. She did just that.  Investing her free time and professional experience in her community, June served Auburn Faith Hospital for fourteen years, working with patients directly as a life line [telephone] technician. June volunteered with Auburn Police Department consistently for fourteen years, there she shredded papers, answered phones and put together children’s safety finger printing kits, so they could be easily found in the system. In 2000, the Swingles moved West from Newcastle to Winters. Sadly, Frederick Swingle died not long after this last move. June continued to volunteer 14 hours a week at the large campus of Kaiser Hospital in Vacaville. While she humbly avoids the limelight, service is important to June, she offers these words of advice: “Have a life of service, service is a great way to meet people.” Stating, “I don’t like to give advice, but I would advise families to love their kids to pieces.” She adds, “And don’t listen to the news; the news is always bad. Instead, go spend time with your family!” And later, she adds “Parents should raise their kids to be good citizens.”   June’s daughter Karla, married John Knabke and raised their two sons, Brent and Lyle in Winters. Brent has two sons, Dylan and William. Lyle and his wife Jacquelyn have only recently welcomed home their first son, Lucian, June’s newest great-grandson. Smiling to all along the large table of family members June said, “The thing that I enjoy about Winters is that I’m involved in such a wonderful family, and there’s nothing like family.”   Elder Day Counsel Member Jesse Loren asked, “Do you have any other advice for us?” Without pause June responded evenly, “Gin and tonic, once a day.” Once laughter dissipated, she added “…and family dinner, once a week.” For more information on the history of White Alice visit http://www.whitealice.net/history/history.html    ]]>

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  1. As Executive Director of the Winters Elder Day council, I want to personally thank the Winters Express and their staff for publishing the stories of these wonderful honorees. Its so important to them, their families, and the community to give them the recognition they have earned.

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