Shirley Leonard Swaim
, 88, of Chandler, AZ, died December 1, 2021. Born on January 15, 1933, Shirley was the eldest of seven children born to Percy and Vera Lynch Leonard of Greensboro, North Carolina. Shirley graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music (Double Bass) from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Shirley played bass for various symphony orchestras in North Carolina including Greensboro, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem. It was during this time that she met fellow bassist and future husband S. Daniel Swaim of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Shirley and Dan married on August 31, 1955, at First Lutheran Church in Greensboro. The couple set off for Cincinnati, Ohio after they married where Dan continued his music study at the Cincinnati Conservatory and Shirley taught elementary school in nearby Covington, Kentucky. In 1956, they welcomed their first son, S. Daniel Swaim, Jr.
New opportunities arose for both Shirley and Dan to play bass for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. In 1958, the couple welcomed their second son, David Leonard Swaim. The family then moved to Wichita, Kansas to play in the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Shirley also taught kindergarten at Wichita Collegiate School. They welcomed a daughter, Kimberly Elizabeth Swaim, while in Wichita. During a sabbatical year in Texas, Shirley pursued her graduate studies at Texas Women’s University and taught at both public and private schools. In 1975 the family moved to Tempe, Arizona to begin a long relationship with Arizona State University. Dan was a professor in the School of Music and Shirley brought her teaching expertise to the Department of Education. At this level, she guided student teachers in their new careers as educators. Shirley began her lengthy career with the Tempe Unified School District. Described by her colleagues as “versatile” and “ready
for any teaching venture,” she worked with Special Education students and later provided foundational guidance and instruction for the gifted education program in the district. She found this work stimulating and rewarding. Weekends and nights at home were filled with developing new learning stations and preparing the components of each by hand. She later found opportunities to have new teacher friends and new experiences with her students at Evans School, teaching 4th grade. She particularly loved sharing customs and foods from other places as part of her curriculum.
Summers for the Swaim family included trips back to the home state of North Carolina to be part of faculty and staff of The Brevard Music Center. Shirley and Dan both played bass in early years and then Shirley was offered the coordinating BMC Hostess position for several summers. She particularly enjoyed picking up visiting guest artists from the airport and planning post-show receptions for special performances. Shirley drew some of her most joy from the various family dogs that came and went in their lives over the years. She was enamored of their loyalty and devotion and curious about how dogs learn (always an educator?). Needlework was among her other skills including sewing, knitting, cross-stitch and needlepoint. Shirley collected cookbooks all her life and loved to share recipes and cook things with her grandchildren. She was a voracious reader and traded books back and forth with family and friends. She was well-known as an
avid football fan. Arizona State University Football was near and dear to her heart and she enjoyed many years seeing the home games in person. In recent years, there were only two seasons each year: Football Season and The Season of Waiting for Football Season.
After retiring from over four decades of teaching, Shirley found more time to read and also enjoyed getting together with her dearest friends. The group enjoyed lunches and teas at special places including The University Club at ASU. Friends and relatives agree that Shirley made them think, made them laugh, and made them feel special.
Shirley is predeceased by her parents and by her sister Martha Leonard Rierson. She is survived by her husband of 66 years, Dr. S. Daniel Swaim, Sr. She is also survived by her siblings Susan Leonard Walker, Katharine Leonard Schlag, P.D. Leonard Jr. (Rickie), Vera Leonard Schneider, and Joseph E. Leonard (Karen). Also mourning her passing are her three children S. Daniel Swaim Jr., David Swaim (Dora), and Kimberly Tejada (Adan). She will be missed by her grandchildren Christin Swaim-Higgins (Brian), Steven Swaim (Livia), Chelsea Weldon (K.C.), Jake Tejada (Jazmin), and Spenser Tejada (Sharon). Shirley is also survived by six great-grandchildren Cadi Swaim, Coen Swaim, Cole Swaim, Major Weldon, Kase Weldon, and Amara Tejada. There will be no services with respect for Shirley’s wishes. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to KBACH Classical Radio (kbaq.org)