Cover photo for Robert Edward "Bob" Swatek's Obituary
Robert Edward "Bob" Swatek Profile Photo

Robert Edward "Bob" Swatek

September 12, 1931 — April 18, 2022

Robert Edward "Bob" Swatek

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 Elizabeth and Roy Edward Swatek. Sharing the nursery with him at St. Anthony's Hospital in Oklahoma City was his lifelong close friend and neighbor 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. (In the late 1990s, Bob toured the Tudor Revival starter home of his daughter's friend Terri Woodward and immediately recognized that her new house was none other than his childhood residence. These were the deep connections that somehow always framed Bob's life.)The grandson of '89ers, Bob was born into a family deeply knit into the Oklahoma City fabric. His early years saw him working on the family homestead staked in the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889, or as he simply called it, the farm. 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 family business founded by his grandfather and maintained for over a century, and its sequel, Bob's own 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, Sooner Bred football-wise, as his father "Sol" played fullback for the Crimson and Cream 1918-1922. Bob reveled in OU-Texas weekends in Dallas with his KA brethren and loved being at OU during the early years of the Sooners' NCAA-record 47-game Win Streak.During his 20s, Bob ran pipeline jobs all over Oklahoma - including near a tiny town in the southeast corner of the state called Chockie. After work, he hung out at a joint frequented by a local steer roper named Clark McEntire - whose toddler daughter Reba would sometimes sing. When in Oklahoma City, Bob enjoyed his memberships in the Bachelors Club and the American Society of Civil Engineers and spending time with family including close 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 from a state supreme court justice. Her name was Sally Taaffe West, and after tracking down her phone number through a mutual friend, he called one day and asked her out. The first few dates were disastrous, and she didn't like him very much. But he persisted, and on March 2, 1963 they were married at her family home in Antlers. They honeymooned in Jamaica - Sally's first airplane ride - and precisely nine months and eight days after their wedding day daughter Karla Taaffe was born. Michael Anton was a Christmas gift four years later, and the couple settled into a busy life of St. John's school carnivals, recitals, Boy Scout campouts, waterski weekends at Grand Lake, and Las Vegas contractor conventions. Fall football weekends in Norman and away games in Dallas, Kansas, Southern Cal, Ohio State, and many Orange and Sugar Bowls helped shape their travel calendar. The kids grew up and moved away, Karla to Northern California and Michael to North Texas, so they added regular trips to those destinations too. One memorable trip to Los Angeles included a visit to "The Tonight Show" with Sally's sister Ann Elms and her husband. When Bob and Sally took a wrong turn in the studio and ended up backstage, a friendly "usher" named Doc Severinsen showed them to their seats, chatting with jazz aficionado Bob about Dizzy Gillespie and Chet Baker along the way.Sally loved to handicap horse races, so the couple often found themselves at Hot Springs and Louisiana Downs, and they took in The Preakness at Pimlico with Dick and Anne Workman. They became regular fixtures at Oklahoma City's Remington Park when it opened in 1988.Bob took up trout fishing in Colorado with good friend Bob Banks, and the couple escaped the frigid Oklahoma winters under the pink and white striped awnings of 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, and Jim and Evie Wood.The children got married, Karla to Mike Davidson and Michael to Wendy Spruill, and soon Bob - a kid magnet his entire life - had three grandsons to give "egg shampoos": Karla's Andrew Robert Davidson (now 23) and Michael's Quinn Downing Swatek (18) and Davis Edward Swatek (16).Bob kept running 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. Paul helped keep Bob out of Sally's hair for many years thereafter. Bob also found joy in helping children learn how to read through a local after school program, and in donating to such causes as the March of Dimes, The Urban Mission, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, and the University of Oklahoma Foundation, which inducted him into its Quarter Century Club in 2021.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 via email and phone, baking his famous apple crumb top pies, and planting a chair on the sidelines as Quinn and Davis' soccer granddad. Weekly dinners at Armando's or Chelino's with Louis Trost became a fixture. Always a champion napper, Bob became a champion reader as well, powering though two or three John Grisham and Robert Parker "adult comic books" a week.On April 18, Bob left us to join Sally, family, and friends 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 respectfully requests that donations be made to Crossroads Youth and Family Services, Inc., https://www.crossroadsyfs.org/donate.
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