Meet Edina's Hometown Heroes

Edina is made up of people who pride themselves with making the city a great place for living, learning, raising families and doing business.

Helen and Ken Swanson

“All leaders are readers,” U.S. President and renowned book lover Harry S. Truman once quipped. Never has that particular aphorism rung truer than in the case of long-time Edina residents Helen and Ken Swanson.

Helen coordinates and moderates the Edina Senior Center’s book club, which meets 10 a.m. Thursdays at the Senior Center, 5280 Grandview Square.

She has frequented the weekly meetings since the early 1990s. Four years ago, when a leadership opportunity opened up, she decided to put her name forward as coordinator.

“I had at one point enrolled in and completed a very useful eight-week course on meeting facilitation at Normandale College,” she said. She had also been active for years in the local chapter of Toastmasters International, an organization dedicated to honing public speaking and management skills. “I felt all of this could be of use to the book club and its members.”

The group tackles featured books in sections, and averages one new title a month. “Fiction stories, memoirs and general nonfiction are all fair game,” Helen said. “We have a small committee in place to help ensure that each selection is worth our while.”

The book club is free of charge and open to everyone. “Reading doesn’t have to be solitary. I like it social. [Hearing different] perspectives is one of the big advantages of getting together.” For those who can’t get enough social reading, the Senior Center also hosts an afternoon book club 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays.

In addition, from its inception until a few months ago, Helen also served on the board for Edina Reads. (The community-wide reading initiative is based out of the Edina Community Library, with which the Senior Center shares its 36,000-square-foot facility.) It always made Helen’s day to see Edina Reads special events receive a good turnout and garner positive feedback.

When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, Helen can often be found with husband Ken at the bridge table.

Ken and Helen moved to Edina in 1962, when Ken took a position with the Twin Cities offices of an auditing firm. Card games, especially bridge, became a favored pastime for both. The pair has been playing for 40 years and counting.

Like reading, bridge is a joy the couple enjoys sharing with others. At one point, Helen even volunteered to teach a class at the Courage Center, a rehabilitation and resource center in Minneapolis. “It’s a complex game. Ken and I really think of it as a sort of cognitive therapy.”

Seven years ago, Ken took the helm of a popular bridge club sponsored by the Senior Center. In addition to playing host, that meant taking care of the club financials and other logistics. While Ken recently retired from the position, he and Helen are still familiar faces around the card table.

“[Helen and Ken] promote the Senior Center with great enthusiasm,” remarked Sue Weigle, Senior Center Director. “They are very interested in each and every person involved.”

Helen considers promoting Senior Center activities as practically another hobby in its own right. “Many of our apartment neighbors are transplants from other states who are here to be closer to kids and grandkids. There might be quite a bit they don’t know about Edina – including all the great programs and amenities Sue and her team offer just a stone’s throw away.”

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