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Theodore "Ted" Merryman Swain

Theodore Merryman Swain, 92, died peacefully after a brief illness on April 10, 2020, at Cascades (The Village) Assisted Living in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Ted was born on October 4, 1927, in Champaign, Illinois, the son of Joseph Ward Swain, a history professor, and Margaret Hatfield Swain, a homemaker. He was the younger brother of Henry Huntington Swain and Martha Swain Carlson. His childhood was happy although it was shaped by the Depression, the aftershocks of WWI and the rumbles of WWII. He enjoyed school, church, Boy Scouts and family. After graduating from high school in 1945, he enlisted in the Navy where he served until 1948.

Ted graduated as valedictorian from the University of Illinois in 1951 and with honors from Harvard Law School in 1954. He settled in Chicago where he worked as an attorney for over half a century. During a distinguished career in the legal profession, Ted served as Chief Deputy Assessor for Cook County and as a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, as well as spending many years in private practice. He was regarded as an authority on property tax law in Illinois, and he was the recipient in 2009 of the Abel E. Berland Award for Exemplary and Outstanding Service to the Civic Federation of Chicago.

Ted was well-known for his sharp intellect and his ironic sense of humor, as well as his kind and generous spirit. He enjoyed discussing ideas, and he enjoyed being around other people. He was endlessly good-natured, and throughout his life he remained young at heart.

He was married twice and widowed twice, and he fathered four daughters. He moved to Grants Pass in 2014.

He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings, by his two wives Bonnie Lael Stone and Margaret Ann Byrne, and by his daughter Karen Elizabeth Swain.

He is survived by his daughter Carolyn Scott Swain, his daughter Dorothy Ann Swain, his son-in-law Gary Lee Lark, his daughter Barbara Joan Swain, and his granddaughters Sharon Swain Ulery and Kasey Swain Ulery.

A virtual memorial service will be held for family and friends on Saturday, June 20 at 1:30 pm Pacific time, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist fellowship in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Donations in Ted's memory may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

To plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Theodore "Ted" Swain, please visit our flower store.


Ted Swain was my uncle, my mom's younger brother. In my childhood, Ted's family
lived far away and but I have fond memories of a few visits they made to our home. I also
remember wonderful stories from my mom about their mischievous adventures growing up,
including the escape, chased by their elder brother, from a second-story bathroom by
tied-together bed sheets. Fortunately for me, for a decade during the 1980's, our paths
crossed much more frequently as I was going to graduate school at Purdue University,
a relatively short distance to his family home in Chicago's Hyde Park. During those years,
I adopted his family for the yearly thanksgiving celebration and other visits. It was always
a joy to be around Ted and we had many fun adventures together. One of my fondest
memories from that era are the treks we made to attend thanksgiving dinner with the
Braidwoods home in the Indaina Dunes area. It was both a serene setting and an
wonderful collection of eclectic guests which lead to humorous stories and deep
conversations. It was a joy.

More recently, my wife Jenny and I have had the pleasure to visit Ted (and Gary and Dorothy) in
Oregon. Jenny and I were so impressed by the way Dorothy and Gary were caring for and
nourishing both Ted's body and his mind. While Ted was clearly struggling with health issues,
we were delighted to see that on the inside he was still the same wonderful uncle who I had
the great fortune to come to know well in the 1980s. I will miss him.

Bill Carlson Jun 20 2020 12:00 AM

So sorry to hear about Ted's passing. I had the opportunity to attend the symphony with Ted and Dorothy. It was spectacular and I was so honored to be invited along.

Kathy Foster Jun 20 2020 12:00 AM

I am so grateful that I have had the chance to know Ted Swain. We first met in Chicago in 2011 or so, when I was collaborating with him on his knee rehab process. There was an instant connection and spark for friendship. I had to the chance to share several Sunday afternoons as we would watch football, yet mainly talk about life. About what is good. What is right. The essence of love and adventure. I learned so much from him and those lessons pop up as I myself journey through life. I'm glad I had a dear friend. Whose name was Ted. And who lived a life in full. Who lived a life that inspired so many. Sending you love and peace where you are now resting Ted. Salud

Efosa May 7 2020 12:00 AM

Our many years of friendship with Ted and family began as described above in Eleanor Nicholsons account of our informal co-op. Household projects, wholesale shopping, traveling, camping, shared dining in/dining out: Teds good humor, wit, and ready spirit enhanced our pleasures. No less important was our personal relationship with Ted, as he became a generous, good friend and, not least, a lively, erudite one. We will carry many fond memories forward. His daughters are in our thoughts. We send them our condolences and warmest wishes.

Ron and Audrey Grzywinski May 5 2020 12:00 AM

Though it is sad to hear of Ted's passing, there is consolation in knowing the strong and positive influence Ted had on so many of us. I knew Ted as a law partner and dear friend who could always be counted on for wise counsel. Ted was also a regular at Sunday afternoon concerts for the singing group I was in the suburb, which were often capped off by great dinners with a few others afterwards. Due to his unpretentious geniality, dry wit and inexhaustable fund of interesting and pertinent stories and anecdotes, Ted was wonderful company in any circumstance. He was one of a kind and my good fortune to have know him as I did.

John Washburn May 3 2020 12:00 AM

I came to know Ted Swain when the Hyde Park United Methodist Church merged into the new United Church of Hyde Park in 1970. We maintained an acquaintance after that, but we had a different circle of friends.
In or around 1980 I became a member of the Church Board of Deacons. At our first meeting we divided the Church Directory, assigned each of us to certain members. Ted was on my list. Not really knowing him, but knowing that he practiced law downtown, I called and introduced myself as his Deacon, wanting to know him better. Our first lunch was splendid, and we periodically met for lunch, even after I retired from the practice of law.
In August 2003 my current Church, Church of the Three Crosses, received notice that a tax buyer had purchased our property for alleged unpaid property taxes. Recognizing the danger, I immediately called Ted to ask for assistance in fighting the purchaser. He agreed, and through several hearings and many twists and turns, we were able to remove the buyer. After that we secured the necessary Court order removing the tax lien and assuring that no future property taxes would be assessed against the Church. We are all forever grateful for Ted for his service to us.
As years went by Ted became more and more physically disabled (although he remained mentally sharp). I continued to talk and meet with him as he went through his changes of residence, until he moved to Oregon. After that we continued to talk periodically by phone, until that became too difficult. Then we corresponded for the last two years. I was saddened by Dorothys news that Ted had passed, but comforted by the fact that he lived a full life and that I was able to count myself among his many fr

Frank Schneider (Sr.) May 2 2020 12:00 AM

I am truly saddened by this loss. Sadly, we lost our connection once he moved to Oregon, and my attempts to reach him the past five years continuously failed. Several weeks ago I had strong feelings and memories of him resurface, which now I wonder if they were tied to his passing.

Ted was an amazing man, and he was so compassionate and kind. I first met Ted as he was the attorney for my pastor Greg Dell, who he helped represent in Gregs appeal I. The Methodist Church. Teds brilliance and compassion helped our pastor win that legal fight. Ted agreed to be my guest at one of my tables that I headed at our Equality Illinois and TPAN Gala events. He was often eager to support causes where justice could be reached. From those experiences, he often shared with me his passion to improve life.

A few years later, my partner struggled with depression, and he either committed suicide or died from an accidental overdose, Ted was a great support. I moved to a Kansas City in 2005, and I still had many of Franks plants in Chicago. Ted rented a Caravan and drove all of Franks last possessions to me. This act of kindness, spending an entire weekend helping me without being asked was how Ted was. He had a moral compass and genuine sense of always helping people in need, beyond nearly anyone who I have ever known.

You were one of a kind Ted! I will miss you deeply my friend. My condolences go out to his family, who he deeply loved. Rest In Peace my friend!

Jim Cowart May 2 2020 12:00 AM

In every profession there are but a handful of people who stand above the crowd. In real estate taxation and assessment administration that was Ted Swain. Throughout his long and prominent career in government, private practice, and education he was the consummate professional.

As the lead assistant state's attorney in the property tax division many years ago his name appears on monumental court decisions in this field. Then, he distinguished himself as Chief Deputy Assessor of Cook County. Then, he gave honorable service as Judge of the Circuit Court. A forty-five or so year member of the Civic Federation (and of its various committees) Ted was the driving force and steady hand behind crafting the Federation's successful legislative effort to the reform of the Cook County property tax assessment appeals process--one of the greatest accomplishments of the Federation in its 125+ year history. For two decades, if there were a task force or committee or working group created to tackle a problem in this field, there you would find Ted Swain. And, amid decades of successful practice at Gould & Ratner, Ted somehow also managed to find time to teach law school classes.

Mentor, teacher, leader, counselor, and friend, Ted Swain was a rock-solid pillar of integrity. He had a keen and powerful mind and an utterly fair and dispassionate approach to debate and problem-solving. The epitome of the absolute gentleman, Ted was strong yet kind; resolute yet open-minded; visionary yet practical; measured yet bold. He was so generous in sharing his knowledge and I, like so many others, was a fortunate beneficiary.
And, I will particularly miss his wonderfully dry and subtle sense of humor.

Ted Swain was rightfully held in esteem, even in awe. When you had the opportunity to work with him (as I did so many times over some 35 years through several committees, task forces, bar association meetings, and in my positions at both the Board of Review and Cook County Assessor) you felt honored. And if he, as he would freely and often, recognized or acknowledged you for some minor contribution you might have made, you were humbled.

This was a great man. This is a great loss.

My wife and I extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

Tom Jaconetty and Judith Hamill

Thomas A Jaconetty Apr 30 2020 12:00 AM

I met Ted about 1983 when I became a member of Lambda Alpha and immediately bonded with Ted. Who wouldn't? He was kind, gentle, mentoring, and encouraging. I admired him greatly and have regretted not seeing him around town in recent years. He was a good man, and we are better for him passing through our lives.

JOHN RUTLEDGE Apr 30 2020 12:00 AM

I met Ted shortly after he moved out to Oregon to be cared for by his daughter, Dorothy. We had many meals together at Dorothy and Gary's house,as well as celebrations of his birthdays and lectures at the Unitarian church in Grants Pass. Ted was at his best in an intimate setting, where he could always surprise listeners with an insightful or wry comment on the conversation. Though physically impaired, his wit and charm always shined through, especially after a glass of bubbly over a good meal. You could always tell that Ted was going to come out with a great comment or humorous statement, as a small smile would appear on his face, ashe waited for a moment to spring a good one on his listeners. I feel honored and blessed to have met such a remarkable man, and to have shared good times with him. Ted will always have a warm spot in my heart, as I am sure he will in the breast of all of his friends, and I am just happy that I was able to share such good times with such a memorable human being.

Kevin Culhane Apr 29 2020 12:00 AM

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