Donald Swope

Born July 5, 1937, on the family farm outside Brownsburg, Va., Don was the son of the late Carl William Swope and the late Mildred Marie (Swisher) Swope. He died Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Sebring, Fla.

He graduated from Brownsburg High School in 1956 and enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), Blacksburg, Va., in the fall of 1956, graduated in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army with active duty at Fort Knox, Ky. He was a member of G Company in the Corps of Cadets during his 4 years of study at VATech and enjoyed reunions and visits with his classmates.

At a Christmas party in 1959 he met Frances Slater Harnsberger. They were married in the Port Republic United Methodist Church, Port Republic, Va., on June 21, 1961.

Don graduated from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., in 1965, and was ordained at Windy Cove Presbyterian Church, Millboro, Va., on July 25, 1965. Bath County, a rural, mountainous area, teemed with deer and wild turkeys, giving Don the opportunity to hone his skills in pastoring not only the members of the two churches he served, but also his skills in finding wild turkeys, deer, and fresh fish to eat. During hunting season, he was expected to visit the hunt camps — that was called “pastoral visits” there.

The Romney Presbyterian Church in Romney, called Don to be their pastor in 1971 and he served that congregation until 1986. Those years were filled with many church, Presbytery and community ministries. Under his leadership the congregation grew into one of deeper commitment and growth with new Sunday School classes for adults and youth forming. In the community he worked with mental health organizations, taught for Shepherd College, led a ministry for inmates at the local jail, organized the Christmas food basket program, and was President of the local Rotary Club. For relaxation he jogged, hunted, and swapped stories with the locals, many of whom rarely darkened the door of any church let alone talk with a preacher.

While in Romney Don began the Doctor of Ministries program at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, receiving his degree in 1980 — an achievement celebrated by the Romney church with the presentation of a shotgun.

Don and his family moved to Sebastian, Fla. to begin the ministry of the New Church Development sponsored by Central Florida Presbytery in early 1986. In October of that year a church was chartered as First Presbyterian Church with 128 members signing the charter roll — the largest number to charter a church in Central Florida Presbytery at that time. There were over 200 members when the first building was completed in 1988.

The Spring Lake Presbyterian Church near Sebring, Fla. called Don as Pastor in December 1996. He and Frances moved to Spring Lake in February 1997 and he began his ministry almost immediately. In the 5 years of his ministry at Spring Lake leadership committees reorganized, new members joined the church, classes for children and adults were organized, and a Vacation Bible School was held.

Don is survived by his wife, Frances Harnsberger Swope; their 2 children, George William Swope (Anastasia) and Sarah Swope Padron (Erik); and 3 grandchildren, Ellanna Isabel Swope, Victoria Isabella Padron and Marcus Venturio Padron. He is also survived by his sister Joyce Swope Hively (Clyde) as well as his nieces and nephews along with their families.

Memorial service will be held Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 at 11 a.m. at St. John UMC, 33631 Grand Prix Drive, Sebring, FL 33872 with The Rev. Ronald De Genaro Jr., officiating. Committal service Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 11 a.m., First Presbyterian Church, 1405 Louisiana Ave., Sebastian, FL 32978, with The Rev. Jeff Woods officiating.

Memorials may be made to Romney Presbyterian Church, 100 Rosemary Lane, Romney, WV 26757, in memory of Donald E. Swope.

Morris Funeral Chapel, Sebring, Fla., is in charge of the arrangements.

To plant a tree in memory of Donald Swope as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

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