Naselle is a small town along the Naselle River with a population of 1,000, including the outlying areas of Rosburg and Grays River. We have several families with Finnish ancestors along with families from Mexico, the Philippines and even adopted children from China and Africa. Family is a big priority in the town of Naselle, just as it is in Finland.
With community a strong piece of their heritage and culture, it should be no surprise that Ilwaco born and Naselle raised Mike Swanson would end up leading a life of giving back to his community.
Finnish Roots Make for Strong American Communities
Here in Naselle, Washington, you will find a group of ancestors from Finland. Neighbors look out for one another and check up on each other on a regular basis, helping with basic needs. There is pride in taking care of the neighborhood in which we live. Families have come to rely upon each other for help in the raising of their children. Working parents do not have the opportunity to take off weeks and month of work. Relatives and neighbors step in to help where needed. Families support each other in transporting children to Doctor appointments, school events and various other after school activities. Our town is very rural and remote, so people depend on each other to help with needs and situations that come up. (Just the other day, I asked a friend to pick up a medication for me. The closest pharmacy is about half an hour away.)
Family traditions are cherished here as well. When children grow up and move away, their favorite thing to do is to come home for long visits. These visits can last for days or even weeks. Family reunions are a special event. The local Finnish American folk festival is so popular that many family reunions are planned around the event. Some reunions are held at the festival and families get their name in early to hold a space.
Adult children make plans to move closer to home or even return to the area to live and raise their own families. Family land parcels are purchased so they can remain close to each other.
My own family lives on a beautiful piece of land, inherited from my husband’s family. We have a man-made lake, grazing elk and visiting geese. My mother and father-in-law live next door, and my husband and I hold out hope for our children to build on our property someday.
A Naselle “Finn” Gives Back
Mike went to school in Naselle and then left for college upon graduation in 1974. He returned home after 3 years of college to work in the woods alongside relatives and friends. He was raised with an amazing work ethic and a practical and proud side that said paying your own way through school was important. After earning more monies, he returned to college and acquired his degree in business and accounting.
Marriage took him up to Neah Bay, Washington in 1979, where I had a job teaching. He continued to work in the woods until he was offered the chance to manage his first business, a local grocery store in Neah Bay. In 1981, with the help of his father, he was offered the chance to own and run the Rosburg Store, so the opportunity to move back home arose. We settled in the community of Rosburg and begin the process of raising our family there. Years later, our family had the opportunity to build a home on his father’s property and there we continued to raise the family, as well as became available to take care of his parents next door.
Mike Swanson has been giving back to his Finnish community since moving back home in 1981. He ran the local grocery/hardware store in Rosburg for 28 years.
He was so respected that he even started receiving mail addressed to the “Mayor of Rosburg.” People came to use the Rosburg store as a meeting place, a place to catch up on all the local news, a place to visit with a friendly and appreciated citizen of the community, as well as a place to come for advice or directions. The local schools even called him for local weather updates early in the morning. People knew they could charge groceries at his store, one of the few in the area to do that. He delivered many a grocery to the shut-ins as well.
In 1995, after acquiring his real estate license, he worked as a realtor for the Naselle Western Real Estate business, running his office out of the Rosburg store. In 2008, he sold the store and bought out the real estate business. As if he still didn’t feel it was enough, Mike decided to run for Pacific County PUD commissioner in 2008 as well and won. Now he gives back to the county by helping to oversee the PUD at monthly meetings and approves what is in the best interest of the rate payers.
For the past 10 years, Mike has run his own real estate business, called Mike Swanson Realty. His reputation has grown in the local area as well as surrounding towns. He is very well respected and trusted as a real estate agent who knows the area well and works tirelessly to find just the right home or piece of property for his clients.
Mike is also the chairman of the Naselle Finnish American Folk Fest that falls every other year for 3 days at the end of July. He has been involved with the festival since the early 1980s and is committed to seeing the tradition continue in his little hometown. Currently, the festival is in the planning stages with monthly meetings taking place. Mike serves as head of the meetings to facilitate and unite the group in dedication to putting on a wonderful festival. This event serves to highlight the Finnish culture, history and artistic talent of each performer.
Community members like Mike Swanson only serve to help promote the growth of our community, restore the ancestral traditions and contribute to the needs of the people.