Catherine Swann Stanley
Catherine Swann Stanley, 88, died January 17, 2020 after a brief illness. She was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Clifford and Margaret Swann. Her parents later moved near Neillsville, WI in the Pleasant Ridge/Reed School area, where their extended family had settled in the 1860s. Catherine was born with a sense of adventure, a desire to travel and a love of learning. When she was four years old she repeatedly walked over a mile to the Reed School because she wanted to learn to read. She was allowed to enter the first grade a few months after her fifth birthday.
Catherine started her travels early in life with her family following her father as he paved roads and airport runways all over the U.S. During grade school she changed schools 16 times – one year she switched schools five times. The family was back in Neillsville for her first three years of high school. Her family was again on the move her senior year. Catherine, who had never minded changing schools in the past, worked very hard to stay in Neillsville. She married the reason two years later.
Lawrence Stanley and Catherine Swann married in 1949 and later bought a dairy farm near Pleasant Ridge. In 1959 Catherine, with the full support of Lawrence, decided to complete her interrupted college education. She had five children under the age of ten, lived/worked on a dairy farm, and had a 50+ mile commute (one way) to Wisconsin State College – Stevens Point (now UW – Stevens Point). Financing this project was a major challenge. Catherine was determined and managed to graduate with honors in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education. Seven years later she earned a Master of Science Degree. She continued to earn college credits but decided not to pursue a doctoral degree because she wanted to spend time with Lawrence and to travel.
Catherine taught for 26 years, 22 of them teaching ninth grade U.S. History at the former Marshfield Junior High. She was an innovative teacher who did not assign homework, or expect students to memorize dates – except for July 4, 1776. Students worked in teams to construct timelines that showed the cause and effect of historical events. She traveled widely and incorporated those experiences into her classes.
Catherine and Lawrence took their camper to every state (except Hawaii) and to every Canadian province. They frequently visited historic sites and accumulated an extensive library. Lawrence did not like to fly so Catherine took many international trips solo. Sometimes her daughter Mary accompanied her. Catherine visited 40 countries and every continent including Antarctica. Her experiences included bottle-feeding a ten-foot baby giraffe in Africa, boating down the Amazon River, seeing Mount Everest by airplane, watching polar bears in Canada and making a round-the-world trip.
She greatly enjoyed the outdoors. Catherine and Lawrence loved riding off-road motorcycles and snowmobiling. The couple collected antique vehicles including a Model A and a Model T, which they took to local events. In 2015 Catherine collaborated with Audrey Wilde to publish the children’s book “A Squirrel in My Pocket”, which was inspired by an event in Lawrence’s life.
Catherine was predeceased by her beloved husband Lawrence. She is survived by her children Mary, David, James, & Charles Stanley, Margaret Bartelt and special granddaughter Gretchen Stanley.
Her children would like to thank the staff at Safe Haven Senior Care (especially Missy, Rhonda and Tasha) for their compassionate care of their mother this past year.
The family abiding by Catherine’s wishes will hold a private ceremony to scatter her ashes at “The Farm” on a spring day when the wildflowers are in bloom. Memorials may be made to Operation Smile, 3641 Faculty Boulevard, Virginia Beach, VA 23453