Dr. Rex Swett, passed away on Sunday August 2, 2015 in Denver, Colorado battling bone cancer at the age of 76. He was born in Brookings, SD, March 4, 1939. He loved growing up and attending school in the Huron, SD community. His senior year, Rex helped the 1958 Huron Tigers Basketball team to a 22-0 undefeated season and a State Championship. He made the all-state basketball team in both 1957 and 1958. South Dakota Sportswriters Association named him High School Athlete of the Year in 1958. He was also named National High School Basketball All-American that same year. As of 2015 he still holds the South Dakota Region 4 High School record in the long jump of 22’9”.Rex attended the University of Nebraska where he pledged Phi Delta Theta. He started all three eligible years as a dual-athlete in basketball, playing point guard and in baseball, playing shortstop. He spent his summers playing amateur baseball in the Basin League for the Huron Indians batting .438 and winning a State Championship in 1960. Rex went on to Graduate from the University of Nebraska College of Dentistry and opened his practice in Huron, S D in 1967. He was a two-time South Dakota State Champion in 8-ball pool 1968 and 1969. He moved his dental practice to Evergreen, CO in 1971 where he lived and practiced till he retired in 1998. He has lived in Denver the past 15 years. In the 1980’s he won eight tennis Championships in the 6 State Inter-Mountain Region in his age group. In 2004, Rex won the APA National 9-ball pool Championship in Las Vegas winning a beautiful trophy and $10,000. Dr. Swett won 15 State Championships in 4 different sports, (basketball, baseball, 8-ball pool and tennis) and 1 National 9-ball pool Championship. Rex was inducted into the Huron High School Hall of Fame, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame and was a charter inductee into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame. Also, the 1958 South Dakota State Champion Huron Tiger Basketball Team has been selected to be inducted into the SDHSB Hall of Fame in 2016. Rex will be represented by his family at the ceremony and will surely be there in spirit. Rex mentored and coached youth basketball. He was an avid skier and volunteered as a member of the Colorado Ski Patrol in Copper Mountain. He loved to dance and won a Gold Medal dancing in the Rocky Mountain Senior Olympics. He loved to listen and dance to Elvis’s music. He visited Graceland in Memphis. He went to all 4 major tennis championships, the Australia Open in Melbourne, Wimbledon in London, the French Open in Paris and the U S Open in New York City. He absolutely loved to travel. Rex was a long time member of Mile High Church in Lakewood, Colorado.
Rex is survived by his wife, Nancy and his sister and brother-in-law Frankie and Don Shultz, a nephew Jay Shultz and nieces Joni Chambers and Jan Shultz, great-nephews Jay Shultz and Donald Borchert all of Rapid City, great- nieces Loren Shultz of Castle Rock, CO and Caroline Chambers of Phoenix, AZ. Step- daughters Shelly Fischer of La Crosse, WI, Kerri Livermore and her husband Luke of Denver and Kim Grove of Frederick, CO. Rex was preceded in death by his loving parents Charles and Pansy Swett.
Following Rex’s wishes, his body was donated through Science Care, to advance medicine through research and education.
A Memorial Service will be held Saturday 1 pm August 15, at Mile High Church 9077 W Alameda Ave. Lakewood, Colorado 80230
A Celebration of his life will be held Friday 1 pm August 21, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church 717 Quincy St. Rapid City, South Dakota 57701
Memorial contributions may be made in Rex’s honor to South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame 2210 W. Pentagon Place Sioux Falls, SD 57107(1)
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Howard and I first met Rex Swett at the Exempla Cancer Center in Lafayette, Colorado. Howard spent five days a week Monday through Friday for thirty-nine radiation treatments for prostate cancer the months of February and March 2015. It was something he dreaded doing, but he fell into the routine after deciding it wasn’t all that bad. Sometime during his first or second week, he met Rex Swett.
I remember the day when Rex arrived in his wheel chair. The attendant parked him at the end of a row of chairs, but he faced us. Howard was busily engaged in a conversation with a lady concerning public education–a topic that caught Rex’s attention. And the part that really captured his interest?
“My grandfather was class valedictorian when he graduated from high school in the late 1800s!” Howard told the lady. “He delivered his address in Latin!“
Rex’s mouth flew open and a smile spread across his face.
“Push me over there!” he told the attendant. “I’ve got to meet this fellow!”
And that’s how Rex Swett entered our lives.
Rex and Howard kept the patients entertained over the next ten weeks with their stories and excited manner of telling them! Valentine’s Day was no exception. Rex arrived on the scene with boxes of Valentine candy–one for everyone! I still have our boxes–minus the candy, of course. I see them each time I enter my office. And I always think of Rex.
Yes, he loved to travel. Howard was taken back for his treatment one day, so Rex and I sat talking. I told him about a train ride we took in Southern Colorado after my retirement in June 2009. We caught the train at LaVeta and took it to the Sand Dunes.
“A train ride!” His eyes really brightened. “Well, do you know what I would like to do? I’ve always wanted to take a train ride all the way across Canada. We could start in the east and end up in the west! We could go to Vancouver and Seattle. Want to go?”
Then he discovered my interest in genealogy.
He would like to know something about his family, he told me. He gave me the names and locations he knew about and the two key places: South Dakota and Iowa. So I did some searching for him. Rex’s ancestors came from New England. From there they went to Illinois. His mother’s family went to Iowa. And finally–they all ended up together in South Dakota. He was thrilled with the results, but I am puzzling over one discovery. Some of his Swett ancestors lived in Rockingham County, New Hampshire at the same time when my Bachiller and Wing ancestors lived there! I wonder whether there is some connection!
The last time I saw Rex and his wife Nancy was June 9, 2015. They wanted to take us out to eat at our favorite diner (Great Scott’s Eatery). Rex liked that place. He liked Elvis Presley–and Elvis Presley’s picture is everywhere there along with James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and others. He brought along a letter he had received from Tom Brokaw, who is also from South Dakota. They played against one another in basketball. Yes–Tom Brokaw remembered him well along with the trouncing his (Brokaw’s) team received. He wished Rex the best in his fight against cancer.
Rex liked to go to the cancer meetings at various locations. He talked Howard into attending one at the Exempla Center. Howard arrived late, and the leader was going to place him on the far side of the room.
“Oh no, you’re not! That’s Howard, and he’s my friend, and he’s going to sit here right beside me!” Rex announced.
They were scheduled to attend another meeting together August 6, only Rex passed away on the 2nd.
“You know what makes me angry?” Rex told Howard the last time they spoke together. “That prisoner who escaped in New York has the same last name as mine!”
Spelled the same way, but pronounced differently! Rex pronounced his name with a long e (Sweet) and the New York prisoner used the short e in his name.
Rex had ten treatments during the time when Howard was there, and the Center was not the same after Rex left.
“Oh, I had ten more treatments in April!” he told us at Great Scott’s.
He apparently traveled to South Dakota for his basketball Hall of Fame alumni banquet, and then he went to Las Vegas for a pool tournament. Nancy told us he often stayed up late at night watching basketball. He could not get enough of the game!
He was wheel-chair bound when we first met him. The treatments enabled him to walk. I believe he used only a cane when we went out to dinner.
Rex Swett was one of a kind!
Someone tossed away the mold after he was made!
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The Exempla Cancer Center is part of the huge hospital complex where our Kaiser clinic is located. Each time we drive in there, I think about Rex and generally mention something about him on those occasions. This morning, something unexpected happened.
Howard had an appointment in the Kaiser GI Department. He has been experiencing difficulty swallowing, so he had to go in for a scoping procedure. The procedure turned out well–no evidence of any cancer or anything like that. But as we drove up the road, I suddenly said: “Look at that!”
Five hot air balloons were still in the air and were slowly descending near the hospital.
“That gave the patients a treat this morning!” I said, and then thought about. “Rex would like to do something like that! Can’t you just see him?”
The balloons continued to descend as we approached the hospital. A smile spread across my face.
“Thank you, Rex!”
(1) Rex Swett Obituary, written by Nancy Brubaker (Swett). Received August 12, 2015.