Bio: Sweda, Joseph (Biography - 2015)

Contact: Robert Lipprandt 

Surnames: Berglund, Obey, Sweda

----Source: The Star News (Medford, WI) 4/09/2015

By Reporter: Mark Berglund

Joseph “Joe” Sweda lived 89 years and he spent a good deal of that time serving through military duty and government roles from the town and county to the state levels.

Sweda died April 1 at Oakbrook Nursing and Rehab I Thorp. His funeral service was today, Thursday, at Holy Assumption Orthodox Church in Lublin.

Sweda’s obituary biography said he drove school bus before entering the state legislature. He built on lessons learned in that driver’s seat to take leadership on transportation and education issues to a statewide level. “On a substantive level, most people would remember his work in transportation and he did a lot of work there, but the other area I will remember is his leadership in education,” said former Congressman Dave Obey, who roomed with Sweda in Madison as both served in the state Assembly. “He worked very hard to expand rural educational opportunities. He didn’t think education should belong to those well-off or the urban swells as he would call them.”

Obey said Sweda was a person who understood how to legislate. As a legislator from Lublin, Sweda made the connections to move up in the legislative leadership to become speaker pro tempe of the Assembly. “He was respected in the [Democratic] caucus,” Obey said. “On a personal level, he was a good, good, loyal friend and a hardworking legislator.”

Sweda served six terms in the state legislature. He was named state highway commissioner shortly after leaving the Assembly.

Sweda’s first formal service came shortly after he graduated from Withee High School in 1945 as he joined the military and served during the final days of World War II. “It’s a big loss when we lose someone who belonged to the World War II generation,” Obey said. “They went through the Depression as well as the war, and they learned to work hard. They learned we’re all in this together and this country moves forward as we, not me. There was a heavy sense of duty I that generation.”

“I graduated from high school on a Friday and Monday morning I was at Fort Sheridan,” Sweda said in a 2005 interview. “An election was coming up, and the first sergeant came around and asked if we wanted absentee ballots, but I wasn’t 21yet, and couldn’t vote.”

Sweda said during the 2005 interview, he toughest vote he ever took in the Assembly was a vote of contempt of the Assembly against Father James Groppi.

Sweda’s leadership on transportation issues led to a role as state highway commissioner. His transportation legacy included the start of the state’s Rustic roads program and some of the first work on improvement to the highways around and through Marshfield. Taylor County received the first Rustic Road designation during Sweda’s leadership.

Robert Rusch, who served as Taylor County district attorney while Sweda was active at the state level, said Sweda leaves a legacy of a self-made man. “He was a real force to be reckoned with. He was a tremendous individual who got there by pulling himself up by his own boot straps,” Rush said. Rusch also remembers Sweda always had a good connection with the people he served. “I remember a day in 1970 when we were campaigning around the county for Dave Obey. He would go into every town and be able to greet people and chat with people,” Rusch said.

During his legislative days and beyond, Sweda served as Taylor County board member and town of Roosevelt chairman. His county duty included a number of leadership roles with the board, including chairman. “I never had any appetite to run for higher office. I always like the county board and town boards,” Sweda said in the 2005 interview.

Obituary of Irene Lucille (Egle) Sweda (1930-2011) 

Obituary of Joseph Sweda (1926-2015)