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Fern Swenson


It is with heavy hearts that the family of Fern Swenson announces her passing on January 31, 2024, a few days short of 92, surrounded by loved ones and under the care of Heartland Hospice. Fern’s well-lived time here was marked by tenacity, practical sensibility, and wide-eyed wonder, which fueled a lifelong thirst for adventure. 

Always up for a challenge, Fern never shied away from hard work. If something needed doing, she’d get it done. Even if getting it done meant teetering on a ladder and crashing headfirst through the oven glass door, or accidentally lighting the neighbor’s field on fire. Grit and determination defined her throughout life, as evidenced at age 75 on a Chicago bus during a snowstorm when she proclaimed to the young man offering his seat, “If you can stand, so can I!”

Fern was born February 11, 1932 to Hilbert and Hazel (Acheson) Naedler in Neillsville, Wisconsin, and grew up on the family farm south of town. She attended St. John’s Lutheran school, and graduated Salutatorian from Neillsville High School. She went on to earn a degree in Home Economics Education from Stout Institute (now UW-Stout). After teaching in Michigan for two years, she returned home and married Calvin Swenson on June 15, 1955.

Fern spent her life eagerly learning and passing her knowledge to others, as a Clark County 4-H Agent for 2 years, teaching life skills at Sunburst Youth Home for 18 years, and then working with children and families at the Family Training Program in Clark County until retirement. She made an indelible impact on her students, shown through heartfelt letters she received years later. Much of her time outside of work was spent volunteering with 4-H, Cub Scouts, the American Cancer Society, and in retirement at the hospital gift shop. She served four years on the Neillsville Board of Education, 3 as treasurer. She was a founding member of the Neillsville Red Hat Society and was an active member of P.E.O. (Chapter DJ and Chapter EM) and Calvary Lutheran Church in Neillsville.

Fern and Cal spent 62 years in their beloved farmhouse overlooking the rolling hills west of Neillsville, where they raised their four children. When they became grandparents, Fern and Cal embraced their roles with gusto. Fern’s greatest delight was spending time with her grandchildren, happily climbing into the backseat of the minivan, asking one million questions, eyes sparkling at the sheer joy of being with her young companions. As the family grew, their home became the gathering place, filled with the warm smell of lovingly baked goodies and the joyous sound of laughter. Their magical home was where Fern imparted her wisdom on her grandchildren, patiently teaching them the art of baking, sewing, gardening, berry picking, and how to stop and notice the wondrous beauty of nature.

Physically and mentally active throughout life, Fern loved playing scrabble, playing bridge, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, hiking, canoeing, fishing, exploring, and above all, traveling. Lucky for Fern, Cal’s love for her outweighed his introverted homebody nature, and she dragged him across the globe on 41 Road Scholar trips. From sailing on a research vessel in Alaska, to inspecting mud huts in Kenya, to hiking to remote waterfalls in Brazil, and exploring Norway, her wanderlust was thoroughly realized.

Fern knew that the small things are the important things. Spending time with the ones you love, challenging your mind, trying hard things, serving others, marveling at nature, and fully experiencing the world around you are what this life is about.

Fern is survived by her children, Mark (Karen) of Plover, David (Linda) of Hubertus, Neil, (Susan) of Stillwater, MN, Kay (Gregg) Aiken of  Stevens Point, 10 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, a brother and sister-in-law, Alan (Darla) Naedler of Neillsville, and a brother-in-law and sister-in-law Jon (Rita) Swenson of Westfield.

Fern joins those who preceded her in death: her adoring husband Cal, her parents, grandparents, sister Merline Kaufman, brother-in-law John Kaufman, and great-granddaughter Ada who was one of Fern’s few matches in spunkiness and willpower. There’s no telling what adventures those two will cook up while they await the rest of us.

The family would like to thank the staff at Dimensions Living for the care provided to Fern over the past 5 ½ years. A memorial will be held at 11:00 am at The Calvary Lutheran Church in Neillsville on June 15 with visitation from 10:00 - 11:00, Pastor Chad Anderson officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Calvary Lutheran Church or a charity of your choice. 


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