April 30, 2013

Jay Swanson, Wichita geologist and entrepreneur, dies at age 80

Jay D. Swanson was a goal-driven entrepreneur and geologist who always had a different story to tell and loved to kid people.

Jay D. Swanson was a goal-driven entrepreneur and geologist who always had a different story to tell and loved to kid people.

Mr. Swanson, 80, died Monday evening.

A native Wichitan who attended Wichita East High School and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in geology, Mr. Swanson served as a fighter pilot for the Air Force before returning to work for Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, Okla., where he briefly worked before joining the Air Force.

Mr. Swanson returned to Wichita selling cars for the former Dick Price Motors until he could find another job in the oil industry. Eventually, he did, first with Jayhawk Mud Co. in El Dorado, and later with Davis Mud and Chemical Co., a Great Bend-based oilfield services company in which he was part owner and vice president for 30 years.

Over the next couple of decades, Mr. Swanson was involved in the leadership and ownership of a number of other area companies, including First National Fixture, W.W. Grinder Co. and VIM Trailer Manufacturing.

He also held several terms as mayor of Eastborough, was a delegate to the 1972 Republican National Convention, and was a member of Wichita Mid-Continent Airport’s advisory board.

David Norris, owner of Professional Mechanical Contractors and a friend of Mr. Swanson’s for more than three decades, said that even at 80 Mr. Swanson had more energy than people half his age.

“He had gotten involved with a group out of Kansas City … that had developed a way to clean up, purify water coming out of waste treatment plants,” Norris said. “So he was working on that. He was very passionate about what a great process that was.”

“He was just a grand gentleman. I loved hearing his stories. He had a million stories. … Losing him creates a very big void.”

Dick Honeyman of Hite, Fanning & Honeyman law firm and another longtime friend, said Mr. Swanson was quick-witted and loved to tease people – kindly.

“He always had a quick one-liner available to him,” Honeyman said. “He liked to needle people, but in a nice way.”

Tim Swanson, Mr. Swanson’s son, said his word was as good as gold in business dealings.

“My dad was a man of honor, meaning that when he shook your hand on a deal, that was more solid than any legal document,” he said.

Tim Swanson said his father also loved to cook, and garnered a lot of awards over the years for smoked ribs and brisket.

“Family was everything,” he said. “My whole life he never called anything his, he called it ours.”

Besides Tim, Mr. Swanson is survived by his wife of 58 years, Susan; a daughter, Michelle Sanders of Wichita; and four grandchildren.

Services will be held at 4 p.m. Friday at Central Christian Church. Downing & Lahey is handling the arrangements.

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