Shannon Rae Swanson
(October 18, 1965 – November 27, 2020)
Shannon Swanson passed away from this world surrounded by loved ones at the family farm outside Livingston, California, taken by rare form of metastatic liver cancer. The youngest of five siblings, Shannon was born to Calvin and Frances Swanson on October 18, 1965 at Castle AFB. She was just six months old when her dad retired from the US Air Force to become a gentleman farmer and actively parent his youngest child. Shannon attended St. Jude’s School and then Livingston High School, graduating in 1983. She then went on to San Diego State University where she earned a B.S. in Psychology. San Diego remained her home base where she formed lifelong friendships, married, divorced, and established herself as an organizational planning whiz.
Her life changed forever the day she entered a local congressional campaign headquarters offering to volunteer. Shan was attracted by the candidate’s strong support of veteran’s issues, a cause she championed as a result of her dad’s experiences as a WWII POW in Japan. He won the seat and invited Shannon to join the team in DC, a rare opportunity for campaign volunteers. On the Hill she learned the ropes of constituent service, legislative development, and scheduling logistics. She took this knowledge to the private sector where she worked in the executive offices of a national environmental advocacy organization. Although Shannon enjoyed her work, she missed public service. She jumped at an opportunity to join the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Informational Programs.
Shannon worked for the U.S. Department of State for almost 20 years under several Secretaries of State including Colin Powell, John Kerry, and Condoleezza Rice to name a few. Shannon designed and implemented public diplomacy programs around the world and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, Africa, and South America. She had a particular interest and expertise in women’s issues, environmental issues, and science diplomacy. A standout among her many departmental contributions was the 50th anniversary celebration of the first moon landing featuring astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Shannon modeled diligence and competence, and maintained a pleasant smile and good humored chuckle even in the most trying of circumstances. She was someone you wanted on your team because you knew she would get things done with no fuss; she was often detailed to support senior management initiatives for just this reason. To her colleagues, she was a dear friend who commiserated over work challenges; modeled sanity; and shared a love for cats, the Washington Nationals’ baseball team, and happy hours. When in her beloved city, she spent as many days as possible at the ballpark cheering on her Nat’s.
Shannon leaves behind her mother, Frances Swanson, siblings Phill (Georgina) Swanson, Steve Swanson, Angela Swanson (Paul Peterson), and Becky Swanson, nine nieces and nephews, their assorted partners and twelve great-nieces and nephews. Shannon enjoyed catching up with the kids every Christmas and on summer holidays. In the last months of her life, Shannon received treatment in Las Cruces, NM, residing with her brother Phill and his wife, Georgina. While there she fought her cancer, nurtured the family’s rescue kitties and enjoyed Georgina’s daily classical piano concerts.
Shannon’s passion was service, and her mantra to make a daily contribution to bettering the world at large. In lieu of flowers, she asked that donations be made to The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation or other groups that research “orphan” cancers like hers. Her death was partially the result of limited treatment options and few clinical trials for her rare cancer. Due to COVID, services will be limited to immediate family at St. Jude’s Church in Livingston, CA on December 22nd. A celebration of her life is planned for early June in DC and late July at the family farm.
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