Helen Fields Swafford of Marietta, GA, died peacefully after a brief illness on Jan. 4, 2018, in Marietta, GA. She was 90.
A native of East Tennessee, Helen also lived in California with most of her life lived in Tennessee and Georgia. Dallas Fields, her first husband, was an R&D engineer with two patented inventions. With her husband and two daughters, Helen moved from California to Georgia in 1959. Helen and Dallas met while both were working at the University of Tennessee library in Knoxville. Helen described herself as a "great reader" with an extensive library on Christian spirituality. Bible readings, prayer and meditations marked every day of her life.
In her youth, her goal was to be a Christian missionary. Instead, she created her own Christian mission path as a Sunday school teacher. In the 1950s, Helen discovered the writings of the great Methodist missionary Dr. E. Stanley Jones and attended many of his Christian revivals/ashrams, including one in Maryville, TN. Dr. Jones wrote numerous books on Christianity and a biography of Gandhi that reportedly was an influence in the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A strong believer in tithing and charitable giving, Helen's concern for the homeless led to ongoing contributions to several homeless agencies and missions. Helen's strong desire to help others with faith journeys led her in the 1970s to spearhead what would become scores of chapters in the South of the 12-step program Overeaters Anonymous. In the 1990s, she gathered an OA group in her home in Jasper. At age 85 as keynote speaker, she addressed an audience of more than 200 attending the Overeaters Anonymous Annual Conference.
One of the many Tennesseans employed by Oak Ridge Laboratories during WWII, Helen would ride a bus from Knoxville, TN, to work as a personnel clerk in what was known as The Atomic City. She moved from clerical work to technical work when she sought opportunities to learn keypunch operations at the Memphis Sears & Roebuck in the 1950s. She learned keypunch operation and remained active on computers until her death. By the 1960s, she was a keypunch operator instructor at a Georgia vocational school. After earning a Real Estate license in the 1970s and working for several major firms, Helen retired to be with her husband, Dallas while he was treated for cancer and took early retirement. Prior to his death in 1985, they both remodeled a van from the frame up and explored the country. As a widow, Helen returned to her roots working in a local library, and she ventured into Atlanta's burgeoning film industry as an extra in the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" and television series "I'll Fly Away."
In 1992, she married Judge Paul Swafford of Jasper, TN. Following Judge Swafford's retirement as a Circuit Court Judge, they enjoyed family gatherings on the Florida coast and trips to Spain, England, Italy and Israel. Following Judge Swafford's death, Helen was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. On her own and at age 89, she wrote about her cancer experience and submitted her story to a Guideposts Magazine editor, who published it in the July 2016 issue. At the time of her death, Helen was a 16-year survivor of breast cancer and navigating ways to live successfully with dementia.
Her two daughters, Jeannie Fields Hollifield and Margaret Fields Highsmith, and son-in-law, Larry Hollifield, survive Mrs. Swafford along with her stepchildren, Barbara and Stewart Crane, Susan Taylor; their children, Zach, Abby, Kelly, Rebekah and Michael; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and her sister-in-law, Alice Fields of Fulton, KY.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Margaret and Luther Burnette; siblings, Ann Ware, Glen Burnette, Susie Marchant, Garland Burnette and Jim Burnette; and husbands, Dallas Fields and Paul Swafford.
Her daughters will hold a graveside service at Calvary Presbyterian Church of Big Lick in Crossville on Feb. 19, 2018, at 2 p.m. CST. A Celebration of Life service is scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT on April 14, 2018, at the Crossings of Burnt Hickory in Marietta, GA. In lieu of flowers, her family requests that donations be made to the Chattanooga Rescue Mission at PO Box 3624, Chattanooga, TN; MUST Ministries at PO Box 1717, Marietta, GA; or The Alzheimer's Association at www.alz.org.
Published on February 12, 2018