Jim Swonk was surrounded by family and friends when he died Saturday at age 79 after a lengthy illness.

Swonk spent his professional career as an automotive engineer, working at Ford and GM. Following his retirement, Swonk became active in politics, working for the Livingston County Democratic Party. He made an unsuccessful run for State House in 2000 and then State Senate in 2002 before settling in as a behind-the-scenes volunteer working to expand Democrats reach in the county.

Swonk later became involved with Voter’s Voice, a bi-partisan political organization with the goal of encouraging “political enthusiasm of the moderate citizens of Livingston County.” He co-chaired the group with former Republican State Representative Judie Scranton, whom he lost to in 2000 for State House. Aside from politics, Swonk was also committed to social justice, and along with his wife Joanne, was a charter member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brighton.

In addition to his wife, Swonk is survived by two daughters; Sharyn Ceru and Diane Swonk, and two grandchildren. His family plans to celebrate his life at what would have been his 80th birthday party on September 8th. In lieu of flowers, they ask for donations in his name for scholarships to the Engineering School at the University of Michigan. (JK)