We have lost a fine Marine and Det-4 Member Kankakee County Circuit Judge J. Scott Swaim, 62, died suddenly from a massive heart attack Sunday morning.
Swaim, a life-long Kankakee County resident, has served as a judge, attorney, community leader and a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps during his lifetime. His family, friends and colleagues remember him as a hard worker who valued service to his community. But above all else, he is remembered as a friend.
"It is going to be really hard to walk into the courthouse Monday," said Chris Bohlen, Kankakee city attorney and one of Swaim's friends.
Life of law
Swaim was first appointed associate judge in 2003.
As a judge, he covered general traffic and juvenile courts, and most recently the aggravated traffic call, including jury DUI cases.
Kankakee County Circuit Chief Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliot said Swaim was an exceptional judge who thoughtfully listened to cases. "He worked tirelessly, and he was the first judge we'd turn to when we needed coverage and help," she said. "He never turned us down."
The appointment to the bench, which he sought for nearly a decade, followed a long legal career as a court-appointed children's advocate, attorney for the Kankakee County Building Commission, and as a private practitioner for many years as a partner in his father's law firm.
"Both as a judge and as an attorney, he had high expectations for himself and others," Bohlen said. "He had a great sense of humor and a tough exterior, but a lot of compassion."
His military experience was also apparent on the bench.
As a Marine Corps leader, Swaim commanded 10 officers and about 250 men in the Marine Corps reserves, where he served for more than two decades after being on active duty in the service.
"That Marine background showed up in his demeanor in the court room," Bohlen said. "He was no nonsense when he was on the bench."
Swaim's life of leadership began when he was young.
Growing up, Swaim was a youth member and leader of the Kankakee Area YMCA. Later, he served on the YMCA's board of directors for 23 years as president, and as a trustee, a position he had to relinquish when taking the bench.
"He gained a lot of confidence and leadership in the Y, and that was supported later on when he was elected to serve in different capacities," said Wes Walker, retired YMCA executive director.
Swaim graduated from Kankakee High School in 1964 with an obvious range of talents, but always opted to remain local, serving the community until the end of his life.
Bohlen said Swaim always took pride in the area and sought frequently to return some of what he'd gotten from it. "He was proud of this community and pleased with the chance to give back," Bohlen said.
Both Walker and Bohlen said Swaim meant many different things to people because he was involved in such a variety of roles in the community. But to them, most of all, he was a great friend. "When Scott was your friend, that was the end of it -- he was your friend," Walker said.
Swaim's wake will be held at Clancy-Gernon Funeral Home, at 295 Main St. NW, in Bourbonnais, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday. The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at College Church of the Nazarene at Olivet Nazarne University, 200 University Ave., in Bourbonnais, with a one-hour visitation prior.
Scott Swaim was a fine Marine officer and a member of Det-4. He died far too young. Semper Fi. Craig Hullinger