Melrose mourns a native son

Dec 3, 2015 by

Garrett Swasey killed in Planned Parenthood shooting

Published in the December 4, 2015 edition

 By DAN TOMASELLO

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Melrose High graduate Garrett Swasey was remembered earlier this week as a dedicated public servant who loved his family and faith.

Swasey, 44, was shot and killed while responding to a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado Nov. 27. He was one of three victims killed during the shooting.

GARRETT SWASEY

GARRETT SWASEY

Married with two children, Swasey worked as a police officer at the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs. He was there when he was called to assist with an active shooter at the nearby clinic.

Swasey was a Melrose native who graduated from Melrose High School in 1989. The city paid tribute to Swasey this week as flags were lowered to half staff. The city will also be holding a moment of silence in Swasey’s memory during Home for the Holidays this weekend.

Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan recalled growing up with Swasey in the city in a statement.

“Officer Swasey was active in his community and his church in Colorado,” said Dolan. “As a Class of 1989 graduate, I remember him to be a kind and caring young man with many friends, dedicated to his skating career and excelling in all areas at Melrose High School.”

Dolan continued, “The entire Melrose community mourns the loss of Garrett and our thoughts are with his parents and family, who were longtime residents, as well as his wife Rachel and their two children. Please keep his family, those who have passed, and all the victims, in your thoughts and prayers.”

Melrose Police Chief Michael Lyle said Swasey dedicated much of his life to helping others.

“The entire Melrose Police Department mourns the loss of our brother officer and native son of Melrose,” said Lyle in a statement. “Officer Swasey graduated from Melrose High School in 1989, along with Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan and several of our current Melrose police officers. This is a tragic and senseless loss of life, as a man who dedicated much of his life to helping others was murdered while performing his duties. On behalf of our entire community, I offer my most sincere condolences to the Swasey family, especially his wife and two children, during this impossibly difficult time.”

In an interview with the Boston Globe, 73-year-old David Swasey said his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue a competitive figure skating career.

“He was a great dad,” Swasey told the newspaper. “I mean, a super dad. Everybody in the police department loved him. Anybody who ever met him loved him. He was a great guy, a great person.”

Swasey’s sister, Kimberly Swasey Noveletsky, said her brother was “a hero in every sense of the word.”

“He showed the world what kind of man he was (Nov. 27) when he made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Swasey Noveletsky in a Facebook post. “His family already knew what most of you are just finding out. In the next few days my brother’s name will be spoken often and his act of heroism talked about. But for those of us that knew and loved him, his loss will be felt forever.”

Swasey Noveletsky continued, “My heart is broken, for my mother and father who have lost their only son, for his young children who barely had the chance to get to know him before he was violently torn from them, and for his wife who will never grow old with him.”

Swasey’s aunt, Lynnfield resident Gail Russell, said in a Facebook post “there are no words that can express the pain our family is now feeling.”

“He was a much loved nephew and cousin whose loss has left a huge void in our hearts and in our family,” stated Russell.

As a skater, Swasey won a national championship in the junior ranks and competed in the U.S. Championships at least three times, his father said.

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Lynnfield resident Nancy Kerrigan, who won two Olympic medals, recalled skating with Swasey as kids in Stoneham. She said she was “devastated” by his passing.

“His dad picked me up at school every day to take me to the rink,” Kerrigan told the Boston Herald. “We were together an awful lot as children. I would ride my bike to his house and we’d hang out at the pool. We were together all the time, whether we were skating or not.”

Kerrigan also said Swasey was a “determined and passionate” skater who would do anything for the people he cared about.

“I don’t ever remember him ever being in a bad mood,” Kerrigan said. “He was always ready to listen, to be there, to help, to encourage somebody else. He was just a really good friend, very loyal and kind. He had a big, giant, smile all the time, even when we were teasing each other like brothers and sisters do.”

Swasey was a co-pastor at Hope Chapel, an evangelical church in Colorado Springs. He and his wife, Rachel, began attending the church in 2001, according to a bio on the church’s website.

“As they raise their son, Elijah, and daughter, Faith, they view the members of the church as their family,” the bio reads.

“Here’s a guy who worked full time as a police officer, and then gave a great amount of time to his local church and didn’t get a dime for it,” the Rev. Scott Dontanville, a co-pastor who knew Swasey for 15 years, told The New York Times.

Dontanville told the Globe that he and Swasey, a fan of the New England Patriots, often would tease each other about football since Dontanville roots for the Denver Broncos.

“That’s something he would always give us trouble for on Sunday morning,” he told the newspaper. “He was an awesome man. … Great father, great husband, good friend — caring, compassionate.”

President Barack Obama praised Swasey in a statement released by the White House.

“May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save — and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing,” said Obama.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

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