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Dave R. Swormstedt, Jr. (1929-2013)

The patriarch of then Signs of the Times Publishing Co. served as company president for 12 years

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(Funeral/memorial information has now been added at the end.)

A very great man, Dave R. ("Reid") Swormstedt, Jr., died January 17 at age 83. He served as president of then Signs of the Times Publishing Co. (now ST Media Group Intl.) from 1979 until his retirement in 1994. The company is the publisher of Signs of the Times, The Big Picture and several other B2B magazines. A 1951 graduate of Cornell University, Dave (affectionately known by his middle name, Reid, because his father was Dave) joined the company in 1954 (after having served in the U.S. Army medical laboratories during the Korean War).

He became president of the company in 1979 following the death of his father, Dave, Sr., who helped found the National Electric Sign Assn. (now the Intl. Sign Assn) and the Screen Process Printing Assn. (now the Specialty Graphics Imaging Assn). Reid retired in 1991 after having guided the company from hot type and color separations into the computer age of modern publishing.

My dad, first and foremost, was a man of integrity, of substance over style. He was fair, and impeccably honest. When an insurance company advised him that we could get much lower premiums if we got rid of an employee with a handicapped daughter, he canceled all relationships with the company. During the company’s heyday, he lobbied stockholders for larger bonuses for the employees.

"Pop" (I called him that simply because that’s what he called his dad) was a scoutmaster for several years. When some parents complained about his allowing a lunch-time prayer to be "Lub a dub dub, thanks for the grub. Yeah God!," he suggested that perhaps The Creator was just fine with boys’ joyful praise in the vernacular. While some leaders were sticklers for pressed uniforms, Reid was busy teaching boys to recognize the constellations and to experience first-hand that snakes are not slimy. As an amateur ornithologist, Pop’s "bird count" was somewhere in the 400s.

During his adulthood, Pop’s family included a beloved mutt, Skippy, for 17 years, at least four raccoons, and several dozen snakes. As a child, he had a pet fox squirrel. He played in a poker group for several decades, and the stakes were literally never higher than nickels, dimes and quarters. Pop loved reading Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour novels, and Grandpa Jones was a favorite singer. (We used to watch Hee-Haw and Hogan’s Heroes together.) Season tickets to the Cincinnati "Bungles" were priceless during the "gory" days because of time spent together by father/sons and grandfather/grandsons.

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At our church, Pop performed behind-the-scenes work: serving as church treasurer for several years, braving the sub-zero temperatures as the parking-lot attendant during the Blizzard of 1978, brightening many lives serving Meals on Wheels, and, somehow, anonymous donations ended up in the plate when the church had special needs. And yes, he helped out when the church sponsored a Boy Scout troop for a few years. "Mr. Dave" also tutored (along with Mom) at a lower-income school. 

During his last two years of life, Pop enjoyed attending the weddings (ranging from Maine to California) of three of his four grandchildren, and celebrated his 60th anniversary (at an American Sign Museum gala party) with his beloved Win. (Without Reid and Win, and Jim and Sharon Weinel, there simply would not be a museum.)

The funeral will be held Friday, January 25 at 2:00 at Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church, 6312 Kennedy Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45213. Visitation will also be at the church from noon until 2:00. Memorials may be sent to the church or to the American Sign Museum, 1330 Monmouth St., Cincinnati, OH 45225. Pop was a member there for more than half a century.

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