Robert Edward “Bob” Swatek Obituary
Robert E. Swatek, known as Bob, passed from this life at the Reminisce Center in Norman, Oklahoma on April 18, 2022 at the age of 90.
Bob was born September 12, 1931 to Willie and Roy E. Swatek. Sharing the nursery with him at St. Anthony’s Hospital was his lifelong close friend Albert Welsh – Bob literally knew how to make good friends from birth, a quality that would stay with him for a lifetime.
An only child, Bob added more lifelong friends at Gatewood Elementary, Taft Junior High, and Classen High School, and around the historic Shepherd District developed by his grandfather M.A. Swatek.
The grandson of ‘89ers, Bob’s early years saw him working on the family homestead staked in the Land Run of 1889. Farm chores instilled a work ethic and appreciation of laboring in the prairie wind that would serve him well throughout decades as a municipal contractor with M.A. Swatek and Company, the company founded by his grandfather and its sequel, Bob’s Swatek Enterprises, Inc.
After graduating from Classen High School in 1949, Bob followed his father Roy to the University of Oklahoma, pursuing a civil engineering degree. He was an enthusiastic member of the Kappa Alpha Order, where his pledge brothers – also lifelong friends – affectionately called him “Grump.” Bob was also Sooner Born football-wise, as his father “Sol” played fullback for the Sooners 1918-22. Bob reveled in OU-Texas weekends with his KA brethren and loved being at OU during the early years of “The Streak.”
During his 20s, Bob ran pipeline jobs all over Oklahoma – including near a tiny southeastern town called Chockie. After work, he hung out at a joint frequented by a steer roper named Clark McEntire – whose toddler daughter Reba would sometimes sing. When in Oklahoma City, Bob enjoyed memberships in the Bachelors Club and the American Society of Civil Engineers and spending time with family including cousins Dick Bohanon and Bill Swatek.
In October 1959, Bob opened the newspaper and was captivated by the photo of a young journalist receiving a Freedom Foundation award. Her name was Sally Taaffe West, and after tracking down her phone number through a friend he asked her out. On March 2, 1963, they were married at her family home in Antlers. They honeymooned in Jamaica; nine months later, daughter Karla was born.
Michael was a Christmas gift four years later, and the couple settled into a busy life of St. John’s school carnivals, Boy Scout campouts, weekends at Grand Lake, and Las Vegas contractor conventions. Fall football weekends in Norman and away games throughout the country helped shape their travel calendar. The grown kids moved away, Karla to Northern California and Michael to North Texas, so they added trips to those destinations too.
Bob took up trout fishing in Colorado with good friend Bob Banks, and the couple escaped Oklahoma winters at Las Brisas in Acapulco and other warm destinations with such good friends as Olan and Roberta Smith, Louie and Charlotte Trost, Al and Carol Welsh, Jim and Evie Wood, and Dick and Anne Workman.
The children married, Karla to Mike Davidson and Michael to Wendy Spruill, and soon Bob had three grandsons to give “egg shampoos”: Karla’s Andrew (now 23) and Michael’s Quinn (18) and Davis (16).
Bob ran his construction company until 2000, when he handed the reigns over to Paul Matthews, best friend Al Welsh’s son-in-law and a dear family friend. Bob also found joy in volunteering to help children read and in donating to such causes as the March of Dimes, The Urban Mission, and the University of Oklahoma Foundation.
Sally succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2005 and Bob lived a quietly active life thereafter, visiting friends and family from Florida to California, keeping up with the KAs, and planting a chair on the sidelines as Quinn and Davis’ soccer granddad.
On April 18, Bob left us to join Sally in a better place. A celebration of his life will be held Sunday, June 26, 2022, 2:00-5:00 p.m., at his longtime Nichols Hills home.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Crossroads Youth and Family Services, Inc., https://www.crossroadsyfs.org/donate.
Posted online on April 30, 2022
Published in The Oklahoman