A newspaper is made up of more than just the people who write the stories, take the photos, design the advertisements and answer the telephone. There are also people who work behind the scenes who take the printed product from our offices, often late at night, and drop it off at area stores and distribution racks where readers purchase it in the morning.
Early Saturday morning, the Northwoods River News lost one of these unsung heroes, Gary Swenson, 64.
According to circulation manager Corey Richter, Swenson had been with the newspaper almost 10 years, dating back to when it was known as the Daily News and was published six days a week.
"Gary was a loyal and dedicated employee," said Heather Holmes, River News general manager. "He always had a great story to tell. He was well-liked by our area merchants, and the community has lost an outstanding man."
Richter said Swenson made his rounds in the early morning hours while the majority of the community was asleep.
"He did half of the Rhinelander River News routes," Richter said. "He was very dependable, I don't think he ever called in sick, which is very important for someone who comes in at midnight when everyone else is at home sleeping."
Swenson was "real big into golf," according to Richter, so much so that his license plate read "3 PUTTS". He was a fixture at Northwood Golf Course and played in several leagues.
"A lot of people knew him as 'Putts,'" Richter said. "They called him that at the golf course."
To his non-golfing friends, however, he was better known as "Swede" in honor of his Swedish heritage.
"He went by Swede a lot," said his daughter Amanda, who now lives in a western suburb of Chicago.
Amanda said she, her sister Rachel Berby and brother Joseph (who still live in Rhinelander) grew up spending a lot of time with their father at Northwood.
"He'd always been a golfer, that really has been his life," she said. "We grew up on the golf course as kids. Any time we saw our dad, we were out there golfing with him or running around on the course. We would spend a lot of time just doing that."
Amanda said her father was always supportive of his children.
"He was my biggest cheerleader, my biggest fan," Amanda said. "He was always there when I needed him. He would always text me a message at least every other day to tell me he loved me or tell me how proud he was of me or just some words of encouragement. I would always have people come up to me and say 'you're Gary's daughter' because he'd go flashing my picture around to strangers."
Richter said Swenson used to take three weeks off to go down to Florida to visit his mother, Louise, and to play golf. She has since moved to North Dakota to live with her other son, Greg.
During the summer months, Richter said Swenson could also be found riding his moped around.
"He'd take it and go collect the (newspaper) racks with the scooter, he just love that thing," Richter said. "He started with a little red one then upgraded to one with a little bigger motor. He'd pull it right inside here and park it, and when he was done, he would just open the door and leave on his scooter."
"He did love his little scooter," Amanda added.
She said her father was in a serious motorcycle accident in his youth and the scooter was a trade off he made in warm weather to be on two wheels.
"He would just ride around on his scooter, he loved that it was economical," she said. "He was always impressed with the gas mileage that it would get."
Swenson and his companion Mary Straus were also regular fixtures at Rocky's Roadhouse, Richter said.
Amanda said her father was "so excited about life" and loved to go on road trips whenever he could.
"He loved to travel," she said, adding that her father was always the kind of optimistic person who saw the "glass as half full."
"He always saw the best in everything," Amanda said. "And I adored him for that. Any time I would have a bad day or something, he would point out the positives I had going in life."
She also said he was a "good grandpa" to his two granddaughters.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce