Dave Swan, a former photographer for The Bulletin and cyclist, died Friday in Texas at the age of 74.
Swan worked as a photojournalist at The Bulletin for 13 years, ran a custom photo lab in Bend and was an early organizer of the Oregon Bicycle Ride tour, now known as Bicycle Rides Northwest.
News of Swan’s death reached friends in Central Oregon this week. They remembered him as friendly, easygoing and always eager to tell a joke or a good story.
“It was a tough blow when I heard that he passed,” said Don Leet, co-owner of Sunnyside Sports in Bend.
Apart from being a cyclist and photographer, Swan also enjoyed cross-country skiing, and Leet described him as an “average person enjoying the outdoors,” someone not interested in some of the overly competitive aspects of outdoor sports today. Swan wanted to get people outdoors and make it a social gathering in a way, Leet said.
Swan was born in Helena, Montana, attended high school in Washington state and was an alumnus of the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. Although blind in one eye, Swan was a news photographer for nearly two decades.
While working at The Bulletin in the early 1960s, Swan photographed migrant workers in Madras. A picture of a woman working in a potato field with her young child was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. Swan also traveled with Bulletin Editor Robert W. Chandler to the People’s Republic of China in 1975 as one of the few journalists allowed into the communist country at the time. His photos from the trip appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.
Swan later taught photography at Central Oregon Community College and opened Q Photo with his wife, Sam.
Julien Havac did much of the lab work at the store for several years. Swan was not only his boss, but also a good friend, he said, allowing him to have a flexible work schedule so he could spend part of his day taking pictures.
“He allowed me to do that and gave me the freedom,” said Havac. “He was a great guy to work for.”
Havac said Swan was someone who could work with anybody and never got angry. “He just never got pissed off. He was just a good guy to work with, and photography was his life.”
Swan became involved in the local cycling world while teaching at COCC, according to Leet. A fellow instructor would organize bicycle field trips to scenic stops such as Crater Lake National Park.
“That’s when he really started the cycling aspect of his life,” said Leet.
As Sandy Green began organizing the Oregon Bike Ride in 1986, Leet said, Swan emerged as one of the co-leaders. The riding tour would have never happened without Green, Leet said, but Swan “set the tone for how the ride was supposed to be. He was the heart and the soul.”
The first tour took 68 riders on a seven-day trip from Hells Canyon, Idaho, to the Oregon Coast. It’s now held twice a year, once in Oregon and another time outside of the state. The tour is now limited to 300 riders.
Leet said Swan was known as the “wagon master” on the ride, always involved in organizing where the group would camp along the way.
Swan and his wife retired from running Q Photo in 2004. They moved to Texas to be closer to friends and family and for the warmer climate. “It made sense to him,” Leet said.
According to Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram obituary, Swan died unexpectedly from a blocked artery in his lungs known as a pulmonary embolism. He was cremated in accordance with his wishes.
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