Melba Ruth Graffius Swoyer 1945-2022


Melba Ruth Graffius Swoyer, née Tenney, aged 77, died Tuesday morning, June 14, 2022 at Evanston Hospital. Her husband, son and two stepdaughters were by her side.

Melba Ruth Graffius Swoyer Recognition: submitted

Melba was born on June 3, 1945 in Little Rock, AR. Those who knew her best knew the many rich stories of her life – losing her own mother at age 1, her early years in an orphanage, attending Little Rock Central High School, nightly surveillance with her sister Shirley (then detective), her many travel experiences around the world (where she always carried her own pillow) and how she earned an MBA (Lake Forest College) without a bachelor’s degree.

From her early job as a secretary at Sperry Rand (her Gregg shorthand skills fascinated her young stepdaughters) to her senior positions in marketing and communications at Allstate, United Airlines (technology division) and Montgomery Ward, Melba has been in contact with hundreds of people throughout her career Career.

A strong woman in a man’s business world, she could infuriate some who felt threatened by her inimitable style, but more than that, she was respected and admired by her bosses, peers and those who worked for her. Later in her career, Melba joined her husband in his communications consulting practice, Cobey Communications.

She was a consultant with the John Howard Association, which independently monitors correctional facilities, policies and practices.

She was also Director of Development and Communications and Interim General Manager at Housing Options for the Mentally Ill, Evanston; and CEO of Rogers Park PACTT Learning Center, which provides educational, residential, and vocational programs to support children and adults with autism.

Melba’s undying compassion for others was undoubtedly influenced by her own personal adversities in her early life. As an ally, advocate, mentor, Melba devoted endless hours to helping those closest to her and strangers in need. Her time as a hospice volunteer in her retirement embodied this well.

Equally important was Melba’s passion and love for her animal friends – especially cats. During their nearly 40-year marriage, Melba and her husband have housed and cared for numerous cats — too many to list here — each with their own distinctive personality, just like her.

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