Susan Jane Swanson passed away in her home at Amity Ranch on March 16, 2020, surrounded by love and with her daughters, Tina and Patty, by her side.
She lived in San Benito County, California, for 40 years, where she took great joy in riding, hiking, and exploring the lovely land of this county. For those who shared these times with her, they will remember her delight at going around just one more bend in the trail or over one more hill to see the other side.
Born in Chicago in 1927, Susan was raised by her widowed mother, Ella Westerling Evans, a housekeeper and nanny. Throughout the Depression and the war years, she lived and went to school in a variety of settings, from a dairy farm in Poughkeepsie to a 5th floor walk-up in New York City and the Norwegian Consul General’s home in San Francisco.
She attended Antioch College in Ohio, where she met and married Joseph Patrick Swanson ’49, an electrical engineer and inventor, in 1949. They moved to California’s San Francisco Bay Area, where they lived and raised two daughters until shortly after Joseph’s death in 1975. It was in the following years that Susan discovered San Benito County.
She was also blessed to find a second love, David Copenhagen. David and Susan leased a ranch in Pescadero, California, where they raised Holstein heifers and began the tradition of “the Ranch” as a gathering place for family and friends. After David’s death in 1980, Susan moved permanently to San Benito County, working and living at the Paicines Ranch and then settling and establishing Amity Ranch as the next gathering place for the extended Swanson, Westerling, Copenhagen, and Reikowski clans.
Throughout her life, Susan sought to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” (Micah 6:8). As a young woman, she pursued a career in journalism. As a young mother, she tutored inner city school children, and later taught adults to read at our local library.
She marched for peace and stood with Women in Black, believing in the power of non-violent protest. She believed that individuals had the responsibility to participate in a democracy, serving on our local school board and frequently expressed her views in letters to the editor and to our elected officials. She believed in justice, mercy, and activism, and took seriously her commitment to leave the world a better place/
Susan lived with her daughters Tina and Patty at Amity Ranch, sharing a house with Tina, and next door to Patty, her husband David Reikowski, and their three children Elizabeth, Matthew, and Peter. Susan cherished time with her family and passed on to her grandchildren her deep reverence for the land and its care. Susan’s home was a gathering place and a haven where friends became family and all shared in the serenity of the land, the care of the animals, and the joy of deep and abiding friendship. Many hands made light work of numerous home improvement and building projects, earning the Ranch the fond nickname of “Rancho Trabajo.” She leaves a lasting and loving legacy.
Susan was cremated and her ashes were spread by her family at the Ranch on the ridge overlooking the valley and across to the Pinnacles, along the walking trail her grandchildren made for her, and under the live oak in the pasture that shelters her cherished dogs. Her family will hold a celebration of her life at the Ranch when it is once again safe to gather together.
Susan honored service. If you wish to contribute to one of the many service groups she supported, the family asks that you consider:The American Friends Service, Doctors without Borders. The American Civil Liberties Union, The Natural Resources Defense Council.