L.F. “Swede” Warneke, 87, died at home of natural causes, in Tucson, Arizona, on January 8, 2022. He was born in Schwägerau, East Prussia, Germany, in 1934. His parents fled Germany in 1937, and brought him and his two half-sisters to Portland, Oregon, to join his paternal grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Swede attended public schools in Portland graduating from Jefferson High School in 1951. He studied at Portland State College and the University of Oregon for 3 years and then worked for the Oregon State Highway Department beginning in 1954.
In 1955, mutual friends arranged a blind date for Swede and Carole, a high school girl from Vancouver, WA. This began a romance that included 64 years of marriage.
In 1957, newlywed Swede and Carole moved into a trailer park just south of Boeing Field. Both worked at Boeing while Swede studied Civil Engineering at the University of Washington. Shortly before Swede received his degree in 1960, the young couple began looking for a house and property suitable for raising children. After visiting several communities in the greater Seattle area, fond memories from a previous daytrip led them to revisit Vashon, where they found and purchased a house with nearly 3 acres just of east of the present-day Vashon Library. Both had grown up in the city and they reveled in the opportunities and freedom afforded by this property and the Vashon community, though this committed Swede to 30 years of commuting to Boeing, including more than 3 years to Everett for the 747 program. Their children, Alan and Diane, were born and raised on Vashon.
In 1967, the family joined the Vashon Island Golf and Country Club and Swede learned to play golf, an activity he enjoyed (and sometimes hated) for the rest of his life. VIGCC had considerable financial difficulties in the early 1970s, but these were resolved when Swede, as President, and Treasurer Roy Topp instituted a number of cost-saving changes in 1973.
In 1979 and the early 1980s, Swede and Carole took several trips to Germany and adjacent countries where they enjoyed the forests of Bavaria, castles on the Rhine, European art and architecture and the company of friends made through the American Host Program. These trips provided an opportunity for Swede to practice the little German he had retained from his childhood and to visit the country of his birth. However, he never got close to Schwägerau, which is far to the east of presentday Germany in the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad.
Swede was a voracious reader of fiction and non-fiction, had a huge vocabulary and nearly photographic memory, and was very knowledgeable about geography and history. He was virtually unbeatable at Boggle and Rummikube, loved to make puns, and was an astute player of Bridge. He and Carole enjoyed many evenings playing Bridge and socializing with the Scheuermanns, Frohnings, Pearsons, Delbridges, Hollisters and others. His children had never heard him sing until one of these gatherings when Joyce Scheuermann and Helen Frohning took turns playing his father’s old pump organ in the living room in the early 1970s.
Swede was skilled at making useful structures out of wood, bricks and concrete. In the early 1970s he built tool benches, drawers, heavy-duty shelving, brick retaining walls, concrete walkways, a large woodshed and a 2-stall horse barn, most of which still stand on Vashon.
Swede worked at Boeing for over 30 years, retiring in 1990. He and Carole moved off Vashon after 32 years and began traveling extensively. In addition to spending winters in Tucson, they traveled widely in North America and visited countries on 6 continents, with an emphasis on visiting natural areas and recording all the birds they observed. Swede took thousands of photos of birds, other animals, plants, scenery, architectural wonders and the many friends and acquaintances they made along the way. Swede created over 20 digital slide shows from the best photos, which he then shared with family and friends and interested members of Tucson Estates. These shows allowed some people to see places and things they couldn’t visit personally and inspired others to plan their next trip.
Swede was interested in other people’s stories and was not shy about striking up conversations with strangers while out birding, walking or attending a musical performance. The birth of his grandson inspired him to begin a family history that grew to hundreds of typewritten pages and includes many of the interesting stories he liked to tell family and friends.
Swede is deeply missed by his wife Carole, son Alan (Vashon), daughter Diane (Aiken, SC) and grandson Lance (Seattle).
If inclined, you may consider donations in Swede’s memory to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
A Memorial and celebration of life are planned for the Spring, pending further notice