Obituary: Genieve Sweeney

Loving mother, lifelong learner


Genieve Sweeney died on October 18, 2016. Born at home on February 26, 1914 in Wayne, Nebraska, she wasn’t expected to live. Live she did, though, for another 102 years!

Young Genieve was one of six highly successful siblings, all of whom predeceased her.

Her parents insisted that all of their children be educated. Their father often took them to school in the winter, during snowstorms, in a horse-drawn wagon. As a very bright young student, she skipped grades 4 and 5. Always wanting to learn, after high school she continued her education at the University of South Dakota, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree. She majored in English with minors in journalism, history and the social sciences. She also learned French and Latin. While in college, she often wrote short stories for regional and statewide contests and won many first prizes. Following her graduation, she taught high school journalism and business law in Ramona, South Dakota, often teaching students just one or two years younger than she.

She followed her teaching profession with a civil service job at the US Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, DC. There she did secretarial work for Supreme Court Justices-to-be William O’Douglas and Abe Fortas. While enjoying the professional and social life in Washington, she decided staying there may not be the right decision if she hoped to pursue her goal of marrying and starting a family. With that thought in mind, she moved to San Francisco where she was executive secretary for the US Railroad Retirement Board.

Following this position came a move to Denver, Colorado where she accepted a job as executive secretary to the commanding general of Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado. Among her many responsibilities, she had a top-secret security clearance that allowed her to know all of the locations of the US radar bases on the West Coast. Along with a very select group of people, she was allowed to go out on the airfield to watch the B-29s take off to fight Rommel in North Africa. It was while working in this capacity that she met and married Staff Sergeant George Sweeney, who was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base. He had also been a journalism major and served as editor of the base newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

Among other positions held by her husband were newspaper reporter, Sunday editor of the Pomona Progress Bulletin (now the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin) and later Sunday editor of the Los Angeles Times. He ended his career as director of public relations at Pomona College in Claremont. He died in 1994.

Following the couple’s marriage, they relocated to San Bernardino where Mrs. Sweeney became the head librarian at the San Bernardino Children’s Library. Then, after several years, the Sweeneys moved to the Claremont area where, prior to her retirement, Genieve continued her teaching career at Montvue Elementary School in Pomona.

Having also been a history major with that unending curiosity, she traveled around the world and made trips to Europe, Russia, China, the Middle East and the Caribbean. At the time of her death, she was asking if it wasn’t time for her to start planning a trip to Ireland, the home of many of her ancestors. Into her mid-90s, she enjoyed camping trips and sleeping in a sleeping bag on an RV sofa. Campfires and breakfasts cooked over a campfire were her favorites, with lots of bacon. She approached her 102 years with joie de vivre and ongoing curiosity.

“Genieve, an amazing woman and mother, was thrilled by the beauty of sunrises, sunsets and all that came between,” her family shared, adding that death is just another chapter in the life of this eternal learner. “She was always searching for answers to her never-ending questions. Needless to say, she was very loved and will be profoundly missed. Her journey continues.”

She is survived by her two children, son Mark Sweeney and daughter Marilyn Sweeney, as well as by her proxy daughter Margaret Fountaine. There will be no formal services. Should you wish, the family suggests, please offer a toast to her memory whenever and wherever convenient.


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