Ethel Swope was born August 5, 1929 to John Benny and Willie Lee Swope in Athens, Alabama. She was the first of six children born of that union. She accepted Christ as a child in Alabama, and continued her commitment to the Lord when the family moved to Chicago in 1939.
Early in the morning of April 29, 2019 God called Ethel home. Her 89-year journey came to end with many recalling all of the wonderful things she meant to them.
Ethel was an excellent student who particularly enjoyed English classes because that is where she could hone her writing skills. She went to Schiller Elementary School before graduating from Waller High School in 1947. Over the years Ethel spoke of the challenges of moving from her small Alabama town to the big city. The determination with which she met those challenges came to be a defining feature of her life.
On December 1,1950, in a small ceremony at her family’s home, Ethel and Russell Reedus married. It was a union that lasted until his death in 2006. They had two children, a son Glenn and a daughter Janice.
Ethel worked outside of the home starting as a teenager when she was a dispatcher for a local jitney. Shortly thereafter she began a career at the then-Hawthorne Works of Western Electric. It was career that spanned four decades.
Ethel’s retirement from Western Electric lasted all of four months before she went to work at Marshall Field’s. She would laugh about the fact she was looking to do part-time warehouse work, but after her interview she was hired as a sales associate at the company’s River Oaks store. Even though she had no sales experience, Ethel thrived in that job. She earned steady commendations from supervisors and letters from customers praising her warmth, product knowledge, and attentiveness. Her success in retail surprised some because at her core Ethel was an introvert most comfortable around family and old friends.
Because she wanted what she saw as a better education for her children, Ethel enrolled them in Catholic school on the West Side of Chicago. She later converted to Catholicism and was baptized at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
Her friendships were an indication of Ethel’s personality. People enjoyed being her friend because of her everlasting positive outlook on life. She was known for saying “in spite of, not because of,” when friends and family came to her for advice on how to deal with negative occasions in their lives .
During the last 10 years, Ethel became interested in technology and was teased by family members as being the oldest Facebook lurker in the country. While she never posted anything, she was proficient at checking the pages of her family and friends and “reporting back” on their activities. She was proud of the fact she knew how to text, use an iPad and owned an iPhone. She relied on web sites such as Huff Post to get her news. Regardless of how much time she spent with her devices, she always found time to do crossword puzzles from the Sun Times and Tribune.
She is survived by brothers, Lincoln, John, Thomas, Robert, and a brother-in-law, Louis; her two children, Glenn and Janice; grandsons, Benjamin, Casey, and Dane; and great-granddaughter Belle. Other survivors include a host of nieces, nephews and close friends. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Russell, and her sister Elizabeth.
Chicago, IL 60649
Chicago , IL 60619
Evergreen Park, IL 60805