Polly W Swafford biography

Polly, at 95, is a strong , active and compassionate individual who continues to consider each day as a learning experience and believes there’s so much more to learn.

Back in the 50s, Polly began listening to Unity radio programs and found the messages comforting. After her husband passed in the mid 1990s, a friend reintroduced her to the Unity Church of Overland Park.

The Unity message provided a message of hope and the answer to a long-sought search for the purpose of life.

Polly’s considers her life to be one of more ups and downs.

She grew up in St. Joseph, MO during the Great Depression.  She learned her resourcefulness and tenacity during that time by watching her mother who found ways to trade for the many extras such as art, dance, piano and “expression” lessons.

Her mother also encouraged her writing which was to be foundational to Polly’s career as was her education – her undergraduate degree in political science from Duke University and her post graduate degree in Secondary Education and History from UMKC.

Polly started her career with  the. St. Joseph News Press and wrote advertising copy for the shoppers’ column = “Shopping with Sue.” She went on to work with Fairfield Publications, reporting business news.  She married and had two girls.  She divorced and moved to Kansas City. She remarried and had a son and was a step mother to her husband’s two children.

After moving to Kansas City, she became a well-respected teacher, evidence by numerous awards:

  • Recipient of Daughters of American Revolution Award – National Outstanding Teacher of American History.
  • Also, Kansas State DAR Outstanding Teacher Award
  • Keizai Koho Fellow in Japan
  • Fulbright Scholar in Brazil
  • National Endowment of Humanities Award
  • Instructor for adult continuing education classes at churches, service groups, community colleges
  • Most Involved Teacher Award
  • Recipient of first prize In Greater Kansas City area lesson plan contest “ Appreciating  Our Freedoms”
    sponsored by The Kansas City Star and McDonalds restaurants.

In 1989, Polly and her husband, Herman, started a tabloid magazine Potpourri, A Magazine of the Literary Arts. It was the first literary magazine in the Kansas City area. Herman served as Publisher and thoroughly enjoyed talking with writers and poets across the country. We gave away the early issues to libraries, doctors’ offices, etc. Before long some 40 volunteers were coming and going from their home to help compose the magazine.  Potpourri progressed to a slick magazine format and reached writers and readers in all 50 states and 27 foreign nations. The publication won many awards in its 15 years of publication.

Polly’s volunteer work continued. She joined the League of Women Voters, became active with KPERS (Kansas Association of Retired School Personnel), volunteered every Friday at Ten Thousand Villages (18 years), reactivated my P.E.O. membership, helped the Friends of Crosslines, served on the Prairie Village Environmental Committee and helped start the Green Team at Unity Church. She was also active with Mainstream Coalition, True Blue Women, and Thursday Poetry Group and Writers Critique Group.

Now, she is active at her senior living community, helping in the library, joining the book club and the poetry group and helping register new residents to vote.

Throughout her life, Polly’s family has been an integral part of who she is.  Her three children live close by and are regular visitors.  Her step son who lives in Canada is just a zoom call away!

Her love of the outdoors has been a constant and Polly continues to find great solace in nature.

Two grandsons summarize who she is –

“Like a Duck in Water.  Everything on top looks smooth and steady but underneath busy busy!!!   Prime example of keeping busy keeps you going!!!”

The kind of grandmother you imagine you would read about in a fairy tale.

And her son, David, wrote —

My mother is the cornerstone
the base rock
of all
that is us
My mother has stood firm
against the tempest winds
like a pillar
made of courage and love and hope
More than her words
more that her intentions
She taught me most
by her striving and surviving
My mother is inspiration
to all of us and many more
People they look at her
and feel pure admiration

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  • Elisabet L Nalvarte

    A beautiful women of God. I feel fortunate to have known her, a life of inspiration indeed!

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