Mpls. Murder Victim Remembered as Loving, Generous
Her friends say she was like "an extra mom" for their families.
Lois Swenson was a retired school teacher, a peace activist who traveled the world, and now, a murder victim. The-76-year-old woman was found beaten to death inside her North Minneapolis home Wednesday.
On Friday, police were interviewing witnesses and potential suspects. There were no signs of forced entry into her home and, at this point, nothing appears to be missing inside.
Swenson's friends are concerned police haven't made an arrest yet-- but even more worried they're going to end up knowing the person or persons responsible. They say she opened her doors to anyone, and now they fear that might be the reason she's dead.
Photos from Swenson's 75th birthday party convey the joy and the spirit of a woman who refused to live life by anyone's rules but her own.
"She was 24 hours a day peace and justice," said her friend Joe Hesla. "She didn't spare anybody. She would get in her friends' faces about how they lived their life and and she'd go up to total strangers and talk to them about issues and she just never stopped. She never stopped."
A retired Robbinsdale 6th grade teacher, Swensen was devoted to helping the poor and disadvantaged. She fought for the environment, and she travelled the world to discover the undiscovered. According to her friend Sean Gosiewski, "She would go to tourist areas like Mazatlan (Mexico) and then encourage tourists to go into the barrios to meet the real people in the neighborhoods."
"I have my garden here because that was always part of her," said friend Diane Boushek, gesturing to her own yard full of plants and vegetables.
She was one with the earth.
"She'd say 'have your own garden, don't just have grass in your yard'," Boushek added.
She believed nothing should go to waste.
"She recycled everything. She would even dumpster dive," Boushek said.
"She would go to laundromats and she would collect up any old clothes that would be thrown away that were abandoned," Gosiewski said. "Then she would repair the clothing and give them to migrant workers."
Though she never married or had children, at her home in the Willard-Hay neighborhood, she took in refugees, immigrants and students.
"So generous, so loving," Boushek said.
Minneapolis police are tight-lipped about the progress of their investigation, but Sgt. Stephen McCarty said, "We'll get to the bottom of this one." He stopped short of indicating Swenson was killed by someone she knew, but did did say, "I don't believe that there's a public safety threat."
Boushek simply said, "I have some suspicions but I just hope they're not true because that would be really horrible."
"We don't want to focus on how she died," Gosiewski said. "We want to focus on her life and focus on how each of us can carry on what she was doing."
On the joy. On her spirit.
Her friends want to tell Lois Swenson: "We'll continue to celebrate your life as best as we can," Boushek said.
Her friends plan to gather privately to honor her memory Saturday night. They're arranging a public memorial for her on Sunday, July 15, at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.
Police ask anyone with information to call them directly at 612-673-2941. Or you can call the Minneapolis Police Tipline at 612-692-tips.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at email@example.com