O’Rourk A. Swinney was a loving brother, husband, stepfather and grandfather known as “Popsie” to his family. He was born in Twin Falls, Idaho in 1951 to cattle ranchers Mark Swinney and Louise Thorpe Swinney. He was married to Linda Filippini in 1991, who he would remain married to until her passing just four months prior to him. He lived a rich and full life with a love for hunting treasures at flea markets and estate sales. He is survived by his only brother Ryan Swinney and Ryan’s wife Audrey, his stepdaughter Sarah Garrity-Schiek and her husband Paul Schiek, and his granddaughter Rose, as well as his sister- and brother-in-law, Esther and Neil Gilchrist.

O’Rourk was a fraternal member of DeMolay (Family of Masons), Key Club, 4-H, Cub Scouts, and the YMCA. Additionally, he was honored with a lifetime appointment to the California Scholastic Federation (CSF) as well as lettering in varsity tennis and wrestling. He was a certified scuba diver and enjoyed annual hunting trips to Idaho with his father. In 1969 he would attend UCLA. There, he would discover a love for rowing. In the early 1970s he transferred to UC Berkeley and again in the mid-70s to Humboldt State University, where he would receive his California Teaching Credential in Industrial Arts. Noting that HSU didn’t have a crew team, he founded the rowing programs for both men and women.

In 1977 he would purchase what is now known as the “Crew House” in Arcata. Named for housing much of the HSU Crew team, it has since been renovated and is still used as housing for local HSU students today.

His love for art and architecture led him to collecting and becoming a self-taught historian, spending hours at museums and scouring flea markets, once famously purchasing an original Granville Redmond painting and later selling it through Christie’s auction house for substantially more than the $25 purchase price.

His love of travel took him to places such as Bali, Indonesia, New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, and other parts of Europe.

His spirit animal, the blue hippopotamus, was said to have visited him in a dream during open heart surgery. He later would mark this encounter with a blue hippo tattoo over his heart and was always happy to show anyone who inquired about it. Later in life he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease which would lead him to join the Humboldt Parkinson’s Support Group as well as Rock Steady Boxing. Both organizations were near to his heart and led him to many new beloved friendships.

Exemplifying his commitment to his community, O’Rourk was a regular on the local PBS (KEET-TV) station’s annual membership drives. He possessed a unique ability to see the good in people and their potential, something that he nurtured in his chosen community of Arcata and its residents.

O’Rourk will always be remembered as a lifelong friend, a kind, generous, and caring man that never forgot where he came from and always strived to improve the lives of the people and the community around him.

His deep love of life, friends and family, and his granddaughter will be remembered by his passionate way of finding wonder in it all.

The family would like to extend a thank you to the amazing team of caregivers who provided immeasurable amounts of love and compassion through the past years to both O’Rourk and his wife Linda, as well as a very special acknowledgement to both Kathy Seror and Dave Hall for their friendship and guidance through this trying time.

A memorial will be held at D Street Neighborhood Center located at 1301 D St, in Arcata on Sunday, March 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. All are welcome.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of O’Rourk A. Swinney’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.