March is a month to get to know Kenneth and Debbie Swenson. They are both 62 years old. Ken was born at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo. His parents, John and JoEll, lived in Springville and that is where Ken grew up. Debbie was born in Brigham City and grew up there. Her parents were Darel and Janice Johnson. Ken has three sisters and one brother; he is next to the oldest. Debbie has two brothers and one sister and is the third child. They met while attending BYU. Debbie was dating a friend of Ken's and when they broke it off, Ken stepped right in. They were married on March 21, 1974.
Ken's dad owned a chain of "Mr. G's Gas and Goodies" and was business oriented. Ken was studying business at BYU, although he admits he didn't attend class as much as he should have. He was anxious to get on with life, and in November of 1973 he had an opportunity to purchase a business. Because of his age (20) he and his father met with Frank O'Brien who was selling his scrap metal business on South Main in Spanish Fork next to the rodeo grounds. Ken bought the business and it became known as Swenson's Metal Salvage. He loved the business and learned a lot through hands-on experience. When he and Debbie got married, they moved into the apartment on the top floor of the office. Ken ran the business for 25 years, and then sold it to Western Metals in 1997. He continued to work for them until March of 2015.
Ken and Debbie moved to Salem in 1976 after their first child was born. They have six children: Laura (Justin) Finlinson, St. Louis, Missouri; Sam (Erica) Swenson, Orangevale, California; Shelly(Dave) Stoddard, Auckland, New Zealand; Matt (Amy) Swenson, Lehi; Robert (Kristy) Swenson, Pleasant Grove; Mick (Jessica) Swenson, Provo. They have 23 grandchildren with one more expected in May.
Debbie reminisced that raising kids back then was certainly different than today. She told of the time when Sam was not quite two and Shelly a newborn and Laura not yet three. She drove to the old Salem Merc just to get some potatoes. She left the car running (it was February) and hurried into the store. On her way to check out with the potatoes in hand she heard a loud crash. Her car had rolled into the front door of the Merc with Sam standing in front of the wheel! No one could get in or out until some good Samaritan stopped and backed her car up. "Those were the days." Ken said all the kids grew up working at the scrap yard, thus motivating them all to finish college.
Ken served as a Salem City Councilman from 1988-1992, two years with Mayor Allen Woodhouse and two years with Mayor Randy Brailsford. He served on the Board of Adjustment for eight years. They were selected as Family of th Year in 2003. They have been involved with Salem Days with Debbie working with the Miss Salem Pageant. She spent many hours and made many friends serving in PTA at Salem Elementary and in the secondary schools in Spanish Fork. In 2002 she was elected to the Nebo School Board and served for eight years. She is currently involved with Utah County United Way where she serves on the board of directors and works with Women's Ladership Council to increase early childhood literacy in Utah County. In 2006 they were able to take a trip to Libya with some friends. While there they wre excited to see an eclipse which they said was awesome. They are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-dan Saints and have spent many hours serving in various callings. One of the greatest joys they have experienced was seeing all of their children serve missions for the Church and they hope to also serve one together some day.
Debbie likes sewing, gardening, traveling, and reading. Ken plays golf, goes 4-wheeling and motorcycling, and loves spending time at Scofield. The whole family loves boating. Ken said he loves the small town feel of Salem. Debbie likes the pond and the amazing beauty here: "Salem is a hidden gen." They both agree that it's the people that make Salem the best place on earth. They are madly in love and are taking advantage of senior discounts at the movies. Happy 42nd Anniversary to both of you.
Senior Spotlight, Salem City Newsletter, March 2016, page 3.