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Born on a farm just outside a very small town in Southwestern North Dakota, Billie Rosalie Elkins was one of nine children of John and Millie Elkins. She attended Nursing School at Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis MN where she met her husband Russell T. Swendseid when she was a student nurse and he was a patient. They married in 1942, just after she graduated. They had been married 60 years when he passed away in 2002. Russ carried this picture in his wallet until the day he died.
Russ and Billie moved to Southern California and then settled in Downey in 1950 where they reared all five of their children in the Downey school system. Billie was a stay-at-home Mother who was an active volunteer parent at school, church and scouts, a fabulous baker, an accomplished seamstress who made dozens of dresses for her daughters over the years as well as the world’s best Halloween costumes. She was an avid knitter who knit dresses and coats and in her later year’s afghans and baby items. She threw wondrous birthday parties and their home was the gathering place for neighborhood kids during all their growing years. In 1961 with their eldest off to college, Russ and Billie adopted their youngest daughter from Japan.
Billie almost always accompanied Russ on his business trips throughout the US. Later and often with one or more of their children, they traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Russia-with many trips to Norway the home of their ancestors and many relatives.
Billie was a volunteer nurse at summer camp and later a volunteer nurse at Camp Pendleton during the Vietnam Refugee Resettlement years. She was later honored by the Red Cross for having contributed the most volunteer nursing hours during the Resettlement Program. Through the rest of her life, Billie maintained friendships with many former refugees she had helped.
Billie was a devoted wife and a generous and devoted mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister and aunt. A devout Christian, Billie passed away peacefully on August 12 surrounded by her family. She leaves behind her four daughters-Jackie Dudley, Ranae Wright, Barbara (Alistair) Hunter and Kayomi (Frank) Platzer–six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her son Russell T. Swendseid II.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 10 at 11:00 am at Messiah Lutheran Church 10711 Paramount Blvd. Downey, CA 90241. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the Messiah Lutheran Children’s Programs.
Published: September 01, 2011 – Volume 10 – Issue 20