“He was a success because he studied the business with great care and was able to give a logical reason for everything he did. It was his profound belief that every farmer should improve his land and leave it in better condition than when he found it.”
— Rachel Peden, writing of an ancestor in The Land, The People
Anyone who knew Terry Swaisgood counts themselves blessed. Terry was a man in our community who was always doing for others when he wasn’t busy working his farm.
If a job needed doing, all it took was for Terry to find out about it, and he would drop whatever his current project, offering to pitch in to help in any way that he could.
This past week, Terry was painting the trim outside Trinity United Methodist Church, working alone, when he fell from the ladder and was fatally injured. Three days later, the community turned out in huge numbers to pay their respects to this salt-of-the-earth man, laying him to rest in the cemetery of the church where he gave so much of himself over his 65 years of life.
The Swaisgoods have farmed the land near the church for generations, and it is impossible to imagine our agricultural community without Terry. He gave of his knowledge, his experience, every piece of equipment that could help get a job done.
Of the many conversations I had with Terry over the years, I always came away knowing more. He knew agriculture like the back of his hand, and could explain in a nutshell why certain things needed fixing, or why other points needed to be left alone in the grand scheme of things. He and his wife, Maxine, spent many years operating their dairy farm, working the herd and the land together, welcoming youth groups and farm groups to their place. Many people have jokingly said that neither Terry nor his wife ever uttered the word “no,” especially not when children were involved.
Terry knew local agricultural history, and if asked to clarify almost anything in this area, he could do it without having to give much thought, no matter the specific topic. He was the go-to man for so many things that it is hard to grasp the enormity of his passing.
The Ashland County native was active in his church, the agricultural community, the Ashland County Park District, Soil and Water Conservation District programs, BalloonFest. Neighbors always knew that Terry could be counted on to see any job through with patience, fairness and a lifetime of skill honed over a lifetime of hard work. His friendly, easy-going nature helped to bridge gaps between city and country, and his humble willingness to share knowledge and expertise was a gift freely given.
Our small town turned out in huge numbers, people waiting in line more than two hours to pay their respects to this good man. He will be sorely missed for a very long time.
After serving as a Marine in the Vietnam War, Terry returned to his boyhood farmstead to begin the life of a dedicated family farmer. He knew sorrow and heartache, having lost two children in infancy, but his faith was steadfast, his manner stoic.
He lost a father and paternal grandfather too young, both passing away at age 50. Terry once told me that he counted every day past the age of 50 as a true gift, and it showed.
He served his church in every possible capacity while also putting in many years as member and president of Ashland Farm Bureau and various agricultural committees. He leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Maxine Light Swaisgood; son, Tim, of New York and daughter Traci, of Montana and five grandchildren, a brother and two sisters. He was preceded in death by two children, Tamara and Trevin, and his parents.
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Terry’s wife, Maxine, chose the following as a tribute:
Sewn in the earth by skillful hands
Brought forth by sun and storm
Destined for a harvest day
Fulfilled when ripe grain forms
Golden wheat in sheaves prepared
for winter that will reign
the story of the life of man
Told by the golden grain
Made from the earth by loving hands
Through heat and rain prepared
To face the joys and storms of life
And treasured moments shared
When at last the harvest comes
As the fields receive the dew
A life well lived leaves legacy
The Master plan in view.