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Obituaries: Paula Swift

— A common belief is that Congressional wives do little but stand around looking on devotedly as their husbands give speeches. With few exceptions that is untrue. It was particularly not the case for Paula Swift, wife of eight-term Representative Al Swift (D-Wash.). She died suddenly of a heart attack on Labor Day.

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Paula Swift

Mrs. Swift was the founding board chair of the House Child Care Center and served there for a decade. Starting with a blank sheet, she led the board in establishing all of the policies of the center, including the touchy issue of whether members’ children should take a priority in getting into the center. The policy established was that the children of all employees of the House would be selected on a “first come, first serve” basis — from the speaker through the staff to the custodians. It was sometimes hard to enforce but Mrs. Swift always fought to preserve the principle.

Swift formed a close bond with three other wives whose husbands were elected in 1978 and called themselves The Four Hearts. Each had a major project like the Day Care Center and all helped each other. Swift worked on many projects of The Congressional Club when her friend Doris Matsui was president. Matsui is now, herself, a member of the House from Sacramento. Among other activities Swift worked on the annual First Lady’s Luncheon sponsored by the group and helped edit its frequent Congressional Cookbooks.

Another one of the group, Carol Williams, wife of Pat Williams (D-Mont.) was executive director of Peace Links, an organization founded by Betty Bumpers, wife of Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) to forge lines of communication between American women and women of the Soviet Union. When the USSR disappeared Peace Links declared victory and closed shop. Mrs. Swift worked on many of the group’s projects including its annual fundraising dinner, dance and auction.

Sylvia Sabo, wife of Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.), led projects in many areas always aided by the other “Hearts.”

Mrs. Swift was a retired teacher, a mother of two girls, three grand-daughters and one great-grandson. She was 76 and had just celebrated her 56th wedding anniversary. Memorial services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. at the Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home, 1500 West Braddock Road, Alexandria. There will also be a memorial service for her in Washington State at a later date.