Cover photo for Frances Ryther Harris-Swanson's Obituary
1929 Frances 2023

Frances Ryther Harris-Swanson

April 26, 1929 — September 8, 2023

The true force of nature we called Mom was born Frances Marion Ryther on April 26, 1929 in Rapid City, SD.

As a depression era child, Frances learned both the frugality and generosity of society during her early years. She started school in Rapid City, SD, however the lengthening depression forced the family to move in search of steady employment. Frances, with her mother (Bess Kennedy Ryther) her brother (LaVere Marvin Ryther) and their collie (Shep) headed to California while her father (Lawrence Ryther) stayed behind in Rapid City.

Throughout the rest of the depression, Bess, Frances and LaVere lived and worked at an Inn which provided their room and board.

When they returned to Rapid City, Frances attended high school while her brother enlisted in the Navy, and Bess went to work as a chef and teacher for the local electric company.

Following her high school graduation, Frances began working for the Rapid City Journal. Being young and wanting more than South Dakota offered, Frances returned to California where she worked for the Sacramento Bee. She returned to Rapid City in late 1949 or early 1950 where she was employed by Duhamel’s Trading Post and enrolled in college at Black Hills Teachers College in Spearfish, SD.

During this time Frances met and eventually married Ben Harris who was stationed at Ellsworth Airforce Base. Following a transfer to Lockbourne Airbase in Columbus, Ohio, the couple welcomed their first child, Adair. At the end of the Korean War, Ben left the AirForce and went to work for Eastern Airlines as a pilot. This new career necessitated a move to Miami, Florida where their son Brandt was born.

In 1958 they divorced, and Frances returned to South Dakota with her children to complete her Bachelor of Education degree. Upon graduation Frances accepted a position teaching 5th grade in Sheridan, WY at Linden Elementary where she taught for 5+ years. Always intent on bettering herself, Frances immediately began the quest for her Masters in World History through a summer program at Black Hills Teachers College.

In 1967 Frances accepted a new position at Grant School in Casper, WY. Two years later Frances transferred to NCHS where she taught World & Ancient History until her retirement in 1991.

Never conforming to societal constraints on women in the 60s and early 70s, Frances bought her first home in 1968. She somehow convinced the bank’s mortgage department that she did not need a man to co-sign that loan!

That first home purchase began Frances’ lifelong love of home improvement and remodeling. Over the years that house added bedrooms, bathrooms, and a finished basement. Frances learned to build fences, tile bathrooms, roof a house, paint and wallpaper.

Her accomplishments also include finishing her Masters degree, sending two kids to college, fliping several houses, creating stained glass artwork, traveling to Europe, becoming president of the NC Teachers Association and working a 2nd job during those years. Never far from her teaching friendships, Frances organized the monthly Teachers’ Breakfast until just before her death.

Following her retirement from NCHS, Frances met her old high school sweetheart at a class reunion in Rapid City. That chance meeting rekindled their relationship of 60 years prior and Frances married John Swanson in Casper on September 2, 2006. Deciding to remain in Casper, Frances and John built a beautiful new home together. Sadly, John passed away less than 2 years later.

Frances passed at her home on September 8, 2023. She was 94.

Frances is survived by her daughter Adair (Tom) Walker of Gillette, WY, her son Brandt Harris of Casper, WY, her granddaughter Christi (Chris) Urman and their son Sawyer plus many “just like family” friends from across the country.

Frances was preceded in death by her mother, Bess K (Ryther) Protheroe, brother LaVere Ryther, and her father Lawrence Ryther.

A Life Well Lived celebration will be held at Occasions by Cory, 303 South Wolcott, Casper WY from 1pm-4pm, Saturday October 14th 2023.

Always a staunch advocate for advanced education, Frances endowed a scholarship fund at Black Hills State University, formerly BHTC several years ago. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:

Frances M Ryther & John Swanson Single Parent Scholarship Fund

Endowment #3212 BHSU Foundation

1200 University, Unit 9506

Spearfish, SD 57709

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Frances Ryther Harris-Swanson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, October 14, 2023

1:00 - 4:00 pm (Mountain time)

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