Pastor John Swensen

pastor john swensen

John Edward Swensen, age 78, of Fargo ND passed away peacefully December 2, 2013 surrounded by family at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.

 John was born April 8, 1935 in Chicago, IL to Edward and Margaret (Henum) Swensen.  He graduated high school from North Park Academy (Chicago) in 1953, St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN) in 1957, and Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN) in 1961.   On April 11, 1959, John married Peggy Kathleen O’Neil in Rochester, MN.  Together, they served Lutheran Churches 1961-1999 in Highmore, SD, Williston, ND, Bottineau, ND and Wausau, WI before retiring in 1999 to “Palm Springs of the North,”…Fargo!  He enjoyed serving interim/part-time positions at NDSU Lutheran Campus Ministry, Maple-Sheyenne Lutheran Church, and Olivet Lutheran Church (Fargo) as well as providing pulpit supply to many other area churches.

John was devoted intensely to his life-long passions of family, faith, grace, Scouting, camping, young people, and adventure. He was one of the youngest Eagle Scouts in Chicago at the age of 13. We will miss his sense of humor and actions of grace.    

John is survived by his wife of 54 years, Peggy Swensen, Fargo; his children, Steve Swensen (Kris), Denver, CO; Rebecca Pehling (Doug) , Lake Havasu City, AZ;  and Maren Kramer (Rich), Fargo, ND;  8 grandchildren, Zach (Meagan), Denver, Kelli, Boston, Andria (Thomas), Chandler, Monica, Denver, Ben, Bullhead City, Jordan (Anthony), Bethesda, Josh and Ben of Fargo; brother-in-law, Robert (Sharon) O’Neil, Stillwater, MN; cousins, nieces and nephews.

Memorials may be given to the Olivet Lutheran Church Building Fund or a favorite charity. 

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Memories Timeline


  1. Wausau WI We have very fond memories of John. Both of our children, Elizabeth and Jonathan, received confirmation instruction from him and they were impressed with his ability to “connect” with them. Our lives were enriched by having known this very special man.
    Klapperich family

  2. Merrill WisconsinDear Peggy, and family. Pastor John always was a special pastor for our family. Bev says he gave the best bear hugs and always called her a Saint. He was the pastor Nathenel knew the best, being baptised and confimed by John. I had the pleasure of being on staff with Pastor John at St. Stephen in Wausau. The many things I learned about ministry from John has kept me in ministry with the church. As the youth minister, I had Maren as one of the youth who went on gatherings and many youth events. We have been good friends with your family since those wonderful years. It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since we worked together. It was always a great time when we saw each other and could catch up. The last time being at St. Stephen’s 150 yr. anniversary. He will be sadly missed by our family. Our thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

  3. Thoughts and prayers are with Peggy, Steven, Becky, and Maren. I have many fond memories of Pastor John from my youth, both as my Pastor, and as the father of my childhood friend, Steve. Spending the night at Steve’s house meant Pastor John’s special chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, always served with a smile. May this world be blessed with more servants like Pastor John.

  4. Thompson ND
    We grew up as neighbors to the Swensens in Williston, ND
    . John and Peggy’s daughter, Becky, and I were best friends. My brother, Randy, and their son, Steven, were also best of friends, and of course, Maren was a little younger at the time. I have so many fond memories of “Pastor John.” He taught me how to ice skate, took us sledding (and then hot cocoa afterwards!), made us 7-Up pancakes after we had a sleepover at their house are just a few of my fond memories. I was saddened to hear of his passing by my parents, who still reside in Williston. He made going to church fun and we so enjoyed the time he served Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Williston, ND
    . When he took another pastoral call to Bottineau, ND
    , our family was so sad to see them leave. We were family friends with lots of wonderful memories. Thanks, Pastor John, for making an impact on the entire Clark family.

    Debbie (Clark) DeMoe and family

  5. Williston ND
    Peggy, Steven, Becky, Maren and families. The Slette family from the parish at Gloria Dei in Williston, would like to extend our sincere sympathy in the passing of Pastor John. Mom and I were talking this morning remembering the many hours our families spent together and all the good times we had. We are so glad we were able to see you and visit a bit at the 50 year celebration at Gloria Dei a few years ago. Pastor John was a wonderful man and will be missed by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
    Rose Slette, Polly Slette Vinger, Peter
    Slette, David Slette and our families.

  6. ALexandria MN
    Peggy, I was sorry to hear that John had passed away. I had always wanted to stop by and see you when I happened to be in the Fargo/Moorhead area.

    I have fond memories of working with John back in Wausau. I so enjoyed our Tuesday morning breakfasts. John lived large and blessed so many.

    My wife Sherry passed away about two and a half years ago. A friend sent a card with this verse: “There are some who bring a light so great into the world… that even after they have gone, the light remains.” I believe this captures John’s spirit as well, and it has given me great comfort. I hope that it does the same for you.

    God’s peace, Greg

  7. Thompson ND
    My mom, Marge Clark, just informed me that Pastor John had passed away. I have so many memories of Pastor John and his family, when we all lived on 13th Ave. W. in Williston. We were blessed to have him as a pastor, neighbor and friend. You are all in my prayers. God bless the memory of Pastor John.

  8. Kronenwetter WIDear Peggy,
    I am saddened by the news of Pastor Johns
    passing. I met him several times both as a
    patient and when you and I worked together at VNA, he was such a wonderful man. I hope you are well Peggy and know this is a difficult time for you and your family. My deepest sympathetic to you and all your family.
    Wendy Olson

  9. weston wiDear Peggy, My deepest sympathy to you and your loved ones. I have thought of you fondly and often through the years gone by and wondered where and how you were. I will pray for your family and hope that you will have abundant peace through this next phase of the journey. With sincere sympathy, Tess

  10. Wausau WI We are both saddened to hear about Pastor John’s passing.

    We hold him dear to our hearts for having been so close to Kelly’s (Zillman) family. We were fortunate to have him unite us in marriage in 1996. Not only was he our pastor, he was our friend.

    Our prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time. We will miss you, “PJ”.

    Kelly (Zillman) & Matthew Mehner

  11. Lake Havasu City AZ
    Rebecca and Family, I am so sorry for your loss. May God bring you peace and comfort in this time. Hugs! Shannon

  12. Wausau WIHi Peggy,
    I am the daughter of Lorraine Plautz from St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Wausau, WI. My deepest sympathy to you and your family. You and Pastor John were both so special to my mom and dad, mom would talk about you often after you moved to ND
    Mom passed away on October 5, 2013, just 2 months ago from today. It was very sudden and I miss her so much! I hope her and my dad meet up with Pastor John in heaven. You will be in my prayers, take care,


  13. So sorry to hear of Pastor John’s passing, what a wonderful man, always embraces and smile. May he rest in peace. Love and hugs,
    Dianna and Jeff Busha and boys

  14. Littleton ColoradoTo the entire Swensen family: We are so sorry for your loss. We enjoyed our times together with John and will remember him fondly.

  15. Bismarck North Dakota
    My deepest sympathy to Peggy and her family. I worked with Pastor John when he was a Pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Williston, ND
    and came to know him, not only as a Pastor, but as a friend. We use to take turns driving our children to Kindergarten in Williston and once in awhile Pastor would forget about picking the kids up. He was such a wonderful friend, had a wonderful sense of humor and Pastor & Peggy use to join us once in awhile for meals and fellowship.

    He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, he was a wonderful Pastor and was always willing to listen and lend a helping hand. There are so many things he helped me deal with during the time I knew him.

    Again, my sympathy to the family, he will be missed by you all I know, but what wonderful memories you have of him. He is with our Lord and I can hear his laugh from heaven. God bless you all and my prayers are that God will give you peace and comfort.

    In deepest sympathy, Mary

  16. Idaho Falls IdahoOur prayers are with you Steve and Kris and with your sisters, children, nieces, nephews, and dear mother. We pray that the assurance we have of heaven and John’s joyful reunion there will bring you comfort in the days ahead. Our deepest sympathies. We love you.

  17. Marathon WiPaster John was an inspiration who brought my husband and I together into the church family as we finished college in Wausau. he married us,baptized and confirmed our children. He has always been a part of our lives. We missed him and Peggy when they left the area! Our sympathy to the family!

  18. Williston ND
    An example of Pastor Swenson ‘s dedication to youth was the number of hours he spent with us in Confirmation, Luther League and Journey to the City (trips to Minneapolis and Denver.) I am glad I had a chance to visit with him at Gloria Dei’s anniversary.

  19. Williston ND
    I have wonderful memories of Pastor John and Peggy from confirmation and Luther League at Gloria Dei Lutheran in Williston. He also officiated at our wedding almost 40 years ago. Our sympathy goes to his family. Rich and Angie (Vennes) Resell, Williston, ND

  20. Fargo ND
    I am so sorry for your loss. I met John in the State Farm insurance office and later ran into him at Olivet a few times. He would brighten a room just by entering. I always enjoyed our brief visits. My prayers are with you today.

  21. Wausau WIPastor John and Peggy served our church for 18 years. He is in the Confirmation picture of our daughter’s class that I look at every day. He was a very kind man, and a great Pastor.

  22. Peoria AZ
    Just heard about the news and am just so saddened. Always hoped to be able to see him again when they would come to AZ
    hoping we could meet up in Phoenix as they passed through. Pastor Swensen was such a dear loving man who God used to help me back in Wausua WI. after my divorce. He gave me wise counsel and ended up marrying Bonnie and I 5 years later during the Sunday morning service 7/6/97. What a special man and what a loss for earth, but what a blessing for heaven. Our sympathies, thoughts and prayers to the family. He will be truly missed.

  23. Lake Havsu City AzI was deeply saddened by the news of Johns passing. My heart felt condolences to you & your family.
    May your hearts heal quickly, but your memories stay fresh.

    My thoughts & prayers are with you.

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