Matthew Swanson

Matthew Charles Swanson was born Nov. 14, 1957 in Loveland, Colo., to Charlie and Patty Swanson, the second of five children. 
He grew up ranching, showing cattle, and roping with his dad, brothers and sisters. Matthew attended Big Thompson Elementary School near Masonville, Colo. The family was active in the Buckhorn Presbyterian Church.
When Matthew was 15, the family bought a ranch in Laramie, Wyo.
He attended Laramie High School, participating in wrestling, 4-H and FFA. He competed in National Finals High School Rodeo in 1974-75. His favorite subject in school was shop, where he had excellent, skilled teachers who saw his potential. He would tell you that those instructors changed the course of his life. 
After graduating in 1976 Matthew attended Sheridan (Wyo.) College, admitting he enrolled not for higher education, but to rodeo and drink beer. When that life became stale he took a break from school.
At his friend Becky’s encouragement he returned to college, this time with a new perspective. He was invited to walk onto the college golf team, occasionally served as a substitute high school shop teacher, and proposed. In 1979 he received his associate’s degree in animal science. 
That same year, on Sept. 15, Matthew married Rebecca Ritterbush in Rawlins, Wyo. They lived on the Swanson family ranch raising cattle for several years. He taught her to rope, and she taught him to water ski. 
He became a certified farrier, and among other things, taught himself to fly fish; tying his own flies. He began collecting tools, built his first shop and when it was time, crafted a walnut cradle. Four children, Cole, Jessica, Cade and Mackenzie, brought even more adventure and joy.
Matthew left ranching and started work at Big Horn Lumber Co., in 1984 as a truck driver, and became the planer foreman a few years later. He learned everything he could about maintaining the machine and how to gain the highest grade boards. Over time, he garnered an uncommon skillset and broad knowledge of lumber production from start to finish.
In 2001 Matthew moved his family to Hill City, S.D., to join Neiman Enterprises. He was excited by the challenge of his new position as plant supervisor at Rushmore Forest Products (RFP). His dedication resulted in one of the most productive and efficient mills around. The quality boards and pattern produced by the RFP crews were highly sought after by large retailers. Anyone who worked there could be proud of their own hand in that.
Matthew was honored and humbled to receive the WWPA award of Master Lumberman in 2013. According to the bigger sawmills west of the Rocky Mountains, Rushmore Forest Products had raised the bar.
Matthew enjoyed his work, but his kids were his deepest pride. He loved watching them become strong, capable and good. 
During their years at Hill City Schools he was in the bleachers for every home game Sunday school program or concert to cheer them on. He helped facilitate some notable homecoming bonfires.
Matthew knew he wasn’t perfect, that he wasn’t always right, but he raised his family in steadfast love and commitment. He was the kind of Dad you want in your corner. 
With the help of family and a few friends, Matthew was able to build his dream shop in 2011. He finished the walls with the beautiful pattern pine turned out by RFP and filled its spaces with the tools of his trade as a planerman, along with those he acquired from auctions. He restored obsolete industrial equipment, and used it to machine custom parts needed for the mills. He often shared his craft and time, helping others with their own projects. He was delighted to be interrupted by a grandchild, venturing inside for a lollipop. The shop had become a gathering place despite his best intentions. 
Matthew was diagnosed with rare Mantle Cell Lymphoma in 2012. With the support of Neiman Enterprises, community, and family, he took on the fight of his life. Over the course of the next 11 years he found that people cared. Matthew’s deepened trust in God was steeled against despair as he continued to work, grow closer to his loved ones and care for others in return. It was a gift to welcome each of his five grandchildren, who affirmed the man he most wanted to be. 
He was looking forward to more time around the fire pit with his grown-up kids, counting those they married as his kids, too.
Matt was thinking he’d like to try fishing again, and was even considering retirement. He believed that no matter what, God is good. Life is good. And because of Jesus it doesn’t end here. 
Matthew died Aug. 26, 2023, in Omaha, Neb., after contracting West Nile virus. He was 65.
He was proceeded in death by his parents, Charles and Patty Swanson; father-in-law, Wayne Ritterbush; and great-nephew, Abel Myers.
Matthew is survived by his wife, Becky; sons, Cole Swanson of Spokane Wash., and Cade (Sophie) Swanson of Lingle, Wyo.; daughters, Jessica (Brett) Simons of Rapid City, S.D., and Mackenzie Swanson of Hill City. Also missing their Papa, are grandchildren Audrey Swanson, Landon and Oliver Simons, Truitt and Sterling Swanson. Siblings, Andy and Celise Swanson of Norfolk, Neb., Mark and Dee Swanson of  Laramie, Decee and Tony Shifflett of Laramie, Donna Jo Demchock-Swanson and Tim Demchock of Sheridan; mother-in-law Glenda Ritterbush; brothers and sisters in-law, Robert Ritterbush, Wade and Sheryl Ritterbush, Bryan and Michelle Ritterbush, all of Sheridan;  and treasured nieces and nephews and their families.
A Celebration of Life will be held Sept. 16 at 11 a.m. at the Little White Church in Hill City. Lunch and fellowship will follow.

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