Rex Allen Swindell (Poppi) passed away on June 9, 2020 with his family by his side. Until the end he was a man who lived his life with humility, integrity, and his handshake was his bond.
Rex was born to Orin and Dorothy (Wade) Swindell on December 21, 1931 in Oxford, Nebraska. After the death of his dad, his mom brought the children to Idaho to be near her family. Rex grew up in Nampa, attending Nampa High School and played baseball and football for the Bulldogs. His football team was celebrated for being Nampa High’s “Winningest football team of all time.” While in high school, Rex met and later married Phyllis Brown. They celebrated over 50 happy years of marriage and had three children: Dave, Kathy, and Nancy. Rex served in the Air Force and the Idaho National Guard. He began working as a bookkeeper, then salesman, and eventually became co-owner of Honstead Motor and Honstead Homes with his brother, Max. The brothers met weekly for lunch to discuss a little work but mostly to share about their families and just be brothers.
Rex and Phyllis loved traveling to many places in the world, but Rex’s true passion was with family camping on the Salmon River near Stanley, time spent at the cabin in Donnelly, watching the sunset at his condo in Maui, Hawaii, or mapping out his Saturday to ensure he made it to each of his grandkids’ games or events, whom he loved and cherished dearly. Rex lived his life being a great example to his family by having a strong faith, working hard, keeping his word, being kind to everyone, keeping his family and friends close and enjoying the special things in life: reading a good book, building a campfire, sitting under the stars, catching a fish, running a river, and snowmobiling.
Rex cherished his grandchildren and together they made great memories….
Brandi-“How do I pick a memory of a larger than life grandpa? My entire childhood and adult life is filled full of memories with Poppi. Filled with silly and fun times, being loved unconditionally, and teaching moments I now fully recognize as profound and life shaping. I would not be who I am today without my Poppi. As an adult I clearly see the blessing; not everyone has a Poppi in their life.
Not everyone has the kind of grandpa that takes you to buy your first pair of basketball high-tops in 7th grade. Poppi patiently understood the importance of this. His granddaughter was going to have the right shoes, that she wanted, on her first day of basketball practice. For me they needed to be cool. And just the right high-tops. So, we went to not just one store, or two, but I think AT LEAST 10 STORES until we found the perfect pair... white leather Reebok high-tops. We were both thrilled. Me, because I had cool shoes. Poppi, because his granddaughter was smiling and happy.
Growing up there was always making sure you didn’t go without... even on small things. But to Poppi they weren’t small. They were significant - I’m guessing because of the way he grew up. “Do you need lunch money? Or money for the movies?” He would say. “Here you go, and here’s extra... stick it in your shoe in case somebody is short on money - and you just pay for it without them knowing.” He was teaching me that on our watch (as Swindells) nobody ever feels embarrassed or goes without if they’re short on money.
I remember the time in my early 20’s I realized there was Poppi the grandpa and then there was Rex... the boss. I wanted to make some extra money so Poppi hired me to do a project for his company Honstead Homes. I missed a deadline... Scariest phone conversation of my life because Poppi only said a few words and he didn’t raise his voice. Calm and steady and serious - his bossman style disapproval was understood. To this day I’ve never been fired from a job or missed a deadline with my own organization because of this moment. This was a major life lesson.
I remember doing a high school car wash fundraiser with my friends. Poppi and my dad showed up in the line of cars to get Poppi’s truck washed. We washed and dried it and got our due amount of cash for the wash... But there was one problem; we didn’t wash the truck that well. So... Poppi and Dave came through at least 2 more times until we finally washed the car properly. There was no way we were going to get away with a sloppy car wash. The best part... Poppi wasn’t mean or upset about it. At all. Which looking back is hysterical. They were both probably betting how many times they’d have to drive through again and again and again until us crazy high school kids finally figured out how to properly wash a car. Poppi of course ended up giving us a BIG tip ($100 bill) when the truck was finally washed correctly. Everyone then knew I had a seriously cool grandpa.
And the absolute best grandfather moment; the way he responded after I got arrested the first time for peaceful and prayerful civil disobedience. I called him and he answered, “Is this my granddaughter who gets arrested? Do you need bail money?” he said jokingly. And then, “how are you, sweetie?” For literally the next 20 years that’s how he answered the phone when I called. Proud as could be of my activism. Poppi never planted a seed of doubt. He understood my work. And wasn’t worried or concerned about what people thought. In fact, on one occasion he said, “you are a spokesperson for our family.” His pride in me and seal of approval - now more than ever - means a great deal.
I’m going to miss those funny phone greetings. And the life lessons. And the loving jokes and the time spent having fun together. I miss our Poppi. But I’m thankful more than words expressed, or memories shared can explain... that he was ours. Forever he’ll be our Poppi.”
Peter-“Tasked with telling a story of an important memory of my grandfather I struggle to nail down just one. A man such as him has so many stories, touched too many lives, and cared far more for people than most can in a lifetime, even those he did not know. I learned most of what I know in life from my father figures, about life, business, family, and what a “man” is. Poppi was just that, my grandfather and a man and just as my father did, taught me what a man is. A man is 5 minutes early or he is late. A man is nothing more than what a handshake means to him. A man takes care of his family when times are tough, no matter how late in life or what the circumstances may be. A man loves his family, tells them so, and shows it. A man comes to more youth sporting events than all my family combined, even if it means a $400 cab fare to drive around all day. A man plays with his grandkids until they whoop him and he scratches his glasses on the brick walkway. A man buys a snorkel guide a shirt when his grandkid is scared of sharks and that guide spends all day with him. A man tries to trade his grandkids for Big Macs and Cokes at the drive-through.
If ever I was confused about any of this, I need only take to mind what my father thought of Poppi. I take his opinion of a man more seriously than anyone else in the world. Throughout my life, Poppi was regarded as a great man, human, and family member by my father. If he speaks highly of someone, it’s because there is validity in it. He has always spoken of the utmost respect for Poppi, of his honor, and that he loved him. His opinion has always carried weight and taught me what and who to be, be like a man and be like Poppi.
Those that knew Poppi know all of this about him. They remember his handshake, his kindness, his honor, his punctuality, his compassion for man. They know of his love for John Wayne, WW2 history, Football, big coffee mugs in the recliner, and polo shirts. They knew he could tell a story and always had a connection to anyone he met, anywhere, no matter how far-fetched it may be.
For my family, I need to hear only one thing to bring me back to good times and fond memories of Poppi and it will work for you all too…. “Buckle up Winsocki, buckle up. You can win Winsocki if you buckle up. “Goodbye Poppi, you taught me so much and I love you and miss you.”
Stephen- “There are many stories that I love about my Poppi, and there are memories that I will carry forever. The smell of coffee at he and Bami’s house on Coffee Street, the untold number of ‘bets’ that won me yet another milkshake, and the banter with him around a campfire all come back to me from time to time. But I have a memories from his time in the care center that I want to share.”
“Like everyone would be, Poppy was not happy about losing the basic abilities one needs to live alone, but he and I had some good times in that care center. I remember visiting him in 2019. I had an excellent joke that I wanted to share with him. I said “Poppy, I have a joke for you” and he said “ok”. I was excited because I had a great joke, and Poppy loves great jokes. I said, “Poppy, why did the man fall into the well?” I paused for effect, Poppy looked away, and a couple seconds later, he looked back at me and said, “Well?”
“I will always miss my Poppi, I treasure the pictures and memories that I do have. One day I, like him, will be gone from this earth. But it will always be true that Poppy and I took many an afternoon nap in the 90’s while watching The History Channel, I on the floor and he in his chair. And it will always be true that he and I took some naps together at Karcher Estates some 20 years later. I am thankful all this time that was so well spent.”
Mark- “Poppi was a legend. I have no doubt that the most important thing in his life were his grandkids. The way he went out of the way to make you feel supported was unparalleled. I could look up into the stands from any sports field, and season, he was always there. It did not matter if I was talented, or if the team was any good, or if I was even expected to get any playing time…he made the effort because he knew it mattered. That is how he did everything. His actions never seemed to be about the outcome, they were always about the principle. He did things because they mattered. He did whatever it took to make sure you knew that you mattered. Thanks for making sure I knew that Poppi. You made this world such a better place. You are my hero.”
Sarah-“I have so many wonderful memories with Poppi growing up, many of my favorites from our family reunion at O’Brien campground every summer. There are too many to pick from, but I find myself reflecting now on his love for the river, the outdoors and most of all his never-ending love for his family. He loved each of his kids and grandkids fiercely, through thick and thin. He taught each of us the value of working hard and having faith in God. He displayed resilience through many events in his life and fought up until his last day, I will miss Poppi dearly but will forever treasure the memories I have with him camping at O’Brien every summer, along with the values he taught us each of faith, kindness, and resilience. I feel incredibly blessed to have had a grandpa like Poppi in my life.”
Jeremy-“It is so hard to come up with one memory of Poppi, there are so many that are special. I guess his kind and gentle spirit is what touched me the most. I remember he took me to buy my first pair of dress shoes, which were Penney loafers, telling me Penny loafers were the first dress shoes he got when he was a little boy. Then he bent over and put pennies in them, telling me someone who loves you is supposed to put the pennies in them, from then on I knew I was always LOVED by Poppi.
Also, I remember when he married Marlene and he had a broken leg, he put down his cane and stood through the whole ceremony clearly in pain, wanting to enjoy the special moment. That is when I learned he always put others first – no matter what.
He was always there for everyone in need and he made you feel like the most important person. I always loved being at his house playing with my toys and would look up an know he was there protecting me. Also, he let me sleep inside of his TV cabinet where I felt safe.
As he got older, I feel so blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with him at his care center. His smile would light up the room whenever someone walked in. The little things in life made Poppi happy, like being in the Idaho outdoors, camping or whitewater rafting, sitting around a campfire and the laughter of family. He fought a strong fight to the end and I will never forget the things he taught me like being loyal, kind, determined and full of fun.
After Phyllis passed, Rex married Marlene DeMink, they lived in Nampa, and enjoyed traveling and time at home with family and friends.
Rex is survived by his wife Marlene, family Wes and Nancy, Peter, Mark, Jeremy, Steve and Lynn, Stephen, Sarah, Brandi, Brian, Kelli, Alex, Jaxon, his sister Bette, sisters in law Blanche, Carlene, Marlene and Darlene, numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his first wife Phyllis, son Dave, daughter Kathy and daughter in law Connie, his brother Max, sister Donna and his bothers in law Bud, Keith, Jack, and Rich.
A Rosary will be held Sunday June 21, at 6:00pm at Cloverdale Funeral Home. The Funeral Mass will be held at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Nampa Monday June 22, 2020 at 11:30 am, with a Graveside Service at Cloverdale Memorial Park at 1:15pm. The family would like to thank Lighthouse Hospice, especially Hannah, Tempe, and Karcher Estates, and Maria and Consuelo for the dedication and compassion shown to our Poppi. And to everyone else “Buckle up Winsocki-buckle up.”
To send flowers to Rex's family, please visit our floral store.