Calvin Schwalm, a hard-working, story-telling man who rarely took a day off from his chores, dies at age 80
By Martin B. Hamilton
JOHNSTOWN - Calvin John Schwalm came from a family of do-it-yourselfers.
A dairyman for more than half his life, all of which was spent in Johnstown, Schwalm passed away last Friday at his home. He was 80.Born on Nov. 4, 1924, when he arrived, Schwalm was so small he fit in a shoebox.
"He supposedly weighed four pounds," said Jolene Schwalm, one of his two daughters. "He was delivered by his own mother," Mollie Schwalm.
"It's on his birth certificate," said Jolene's sister, Diane Schwalm Reid. "Where it reads who delivered the baby, it says, 'Myself.'"
Schwalm's father was Clarence Schwalm, one of five children born to John and Ida Schwalm. The family moved from Fleming to Johnstown in 1902, just when Johnstown became incorporated, and bought a farm west of town in Elwell.
"They were raised with hard work," said Reid, who said her grandmother applied the same ethic. "When someone wanted to take an afternoon nap, grandma would say, 'Kid, get out there and work it out.'"
Recently, even when he wasn't feeling well, Calvin Schwalm still did his chores.
"He basically baled the second-cutting hay, which was put up in the first week of July," his daughter Jolene said. "But he told me this summer, he got tired easily. He was losing weight and didn't have much of an appetite, so he went in to see a doctor."
Less than three weeks later, after being diagnosed with cancer and having surgery, Schwalm passed away. "But he did his thing right up to the end. He had a full life," said Jolene, who continues to live on and work the farm.
"We have about 80 acres left," she said. "It was probably 100 to 105 acres at its largest, and it was all used to support dairy cows, Guernsey cows. Dad was a member of the Guernsey Cattle Club for years."
With more than five dozen head, Jolene said her father did all the milking himself. "He went about 40 years without missing a milking," she said. "We had enough to live on, but he never got rich at it."
Paul Nelson, one of his peers who runs his own dairy north of Milliken, admired Schwalm.
"His work (came) first," he said. "I met him in 1947 or '48. He was a good dairyman, and he did it all himself. Nobody else could milk his cows. They were a crazy bunch of cows, except when he was around.
The cows knew who was supposed to milk them."
There were, however, a couple of times Schwalm didn't milk.
Reid said, "From the time he started milking in '46 when he got back from the war, the only days he missed were for his in-laws' funerals in Delta. That's twice a day every day; a pretty amazing record."
As a young man, Schwalm worked the family farm with his father "until he went into the service," Jolene said.
A 1942 graduate of Johnstown High School, Schwalm attended Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University) for one year before joining the U.S. Army. As a rifleman with the 35th Infantry Division, he fought in the Battle of Germany near the end of World War II.
"Then he came back and farmed with his dad," Jolene said. "They bought this place about four miles north of town, then his dad passed away."
Schwalm raised and milked cows until the early 1990s, then semi-retired, she said. "He has been raising hay since then and selling it mostly to horse people."
Quarter horses were Schwalm's sideline, said Jolene, who also raises and trains them.
"For fun, he raised registered quarter horses in the late '40s when the breed was first established," she said. "Both my sister and I rode. That was his hobby, but it's my business."
Schwalm made it his business to get in a day's good work and also remember the past.
"He was a fabulous storyteller," said Reid, a professor of communication with the Indiana University system. She lives in New Albany, Ind., and prides herself on her abilities stemming from the fact her father was quite adept at providing oral history.
"Family history, local stories, he could tell them for hours," she said. "He had an amazing memory and was big into the oral history tradition."
Ardis Briggs, president of the Johnstown Historical Society, was appreciative of that. The JHS regularly interviews longtime residents, engaging them in conversation that elicits stories - and in the process the history - of Johnstown and its people.
"He was a reliable source for lots of local history," Briggs said. "He'd share pictures with us and was always great about helping us out. He was a lot of fun to be around."
"He had quite a laugh," Nelson said.
Schwalm is survived by his three brothers, Ken, Lloyd, and Richard, along with his daughters, several nieces and nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by another brother, Howard.
His wife of almost a half-century, Arelyne, passed away just about six years ago. They were married on June 9, 1950.
"They would've had their 50th anniversary the next summer," Jolene said.
A charter member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2585 in Johnstown, Schwalm was also involved in 4-H Club activities as a youth and later as a leader.
He was laid to rest Wednesday morning in the Johnstown Cemetery. Memorial contributions in his name may be made to the Weld County 4-H Foundation in care of Kibbey-Fishburn Funeral Home, 1102 Lincoln Ave., Loveland, CO 80537.
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