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John A. Swenson

John A. Swenson, 79, found peace at his Ely home on March 12, 2024, with his beloved wife Sheryl and their three devoted pups by his side.  John was a proud veteran of the US Navy Seabees, including difficult days at Gitmo in Cuba, and after his military service became a master carpenter at Midwest Steel and CEO of their large credit union in northwest Indiana.

This Chicago-born boy fell in love with Ely at age 9 during a magical fishing trip to Basswood Lodge with his grandfather.  The lure of the Northwoods brought him back to Ely many, many times as a young man and his stories about Ely were colorful and endless.  John met Sheryl on a blind date and talked non-stop over dinner about Ely and his dream of finding a small lakeside cabin and maybe starting a new career.  They married on the first day of Spring 1985 and honeymooned that June in Quetico Park, her first time in a tent, first time in a canoe, and first time catching a fish.  Their journey toward Ely as home began.

His dream came true when he purchased Timber Trail Lodge in 1988.  In his nearly four decades in Ely, John also owned North Country Lodge, Border Lakes Wilderness Canoe Trips, Shig Wak Resort, Fenske Lake Cabins, Big Lake Wilderness Lodge & Outfitters, Canadian Border Outfitters, Ely Lodging, and Wildwoods Land Company, in addition to managing the Fall Lake Campgrounds for the US Forest Service.  He was honored to serve as president of the Ely Chamber of Commerce and the Ely Tourism Bureau for many years.  John was a tireless supporter of the tourism community and took much pleasure in introducing tens of thousands to the adventures that Ely offers.

And in that spirit, John has chosen Ely as his final resting place.  There will be no services at his request.

John valued the many personal and business relationships forged over his years here.  He sends his words of thanks to many who have shared his joy of simply being an Elyite.  Because to the end, John was still that 9-year-old boy.

John is survived by his wife Sheryl of Ely, his mother Betty Koski, three sisters Yvonne Schmidt, Cathy Baker, and Barbara Hall, and sister-in-law Debra Foster all of Indiana, and the special friend he treasured as a son, Chris Eilrich of Ely.

Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Kerntz Funeral Home of Ely.

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