Her Life

Linda's Life & Wishes

Our Mother, Linda, lived a full, eventful life, creating many memories for her entire family.

Born into the Milnes family, she lived the first part of her life in Chariton, Iowa. Her parents, Wiltsey and Velma (St. Clair) Milnes had three children together: Lonnee Ann, Linda Denyse, and Eldon Wiltsey. Her mother, Velma, passed away when she was three years old. Wiltsey then married Martha Carlson, and they had four children together: Martha Kay (Marti), Jeffrey, Elizabeth and Cristiane (Cris). It was quite a clan! Linda graduated from Chariton High School, where she was a cheerleader and Homecoming Queen. She started working when she was still very young at Forrest Grocery and Piper’s, then worked at First National Bank and the Chariton newspaper office while still in high school She married her high school sweetheart, Edward Swarthout, in June after high school graduation. They had the three of us: Kelly Jo, Eric Zane, and Kirk Edward. We moved to Des Moines where Ed attended Drake University and she continued her banking career. We lived for a time with our grandparents, Fred and La Vera Swarthout, and our Uncle Jack, on their farm near Columbia, IA, while Ed and Linda commuted to Des Moines. 

In 1964, we moved to Livonia, Michigan, where Ed worked as an accountant for Ford Motor Co. and Linda continued in banking. In 1966, we moved from Michigan to Thousand Oaks, California, driving cross-country in a Mustang convertible. The three of us sat on a mattress in the back seat! We rented a house and then bought a new house in a new development on the edge of Thousand Oaks, where Mom expected to live the rest of her life. Little did she know that something else was written in the stars, as it would be the first of multiple moves around Southern California. In 1972, we moved again to Glendale in order for our parents to continue working in the real estate (Ed) and mortgage banking (Linda) business. We lived in a house on the side of a hill with an expansive view of Los Angeles spread out below.

In 1976, we moved to Corona del Mar to a house in China Cove. It was Linda's and our favorite, an enchanting place to live. Many great memories were created in that beach-side cottage. It was relaxing, so-much-so that it was six months before Linda and Ed got motivated to go back to work. Linda started a small business in an office a few blocks from where we lived. Our parents divorced in 1983 after a four-year separation. After several years in Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, she would start a succession of moves, both living and work-wise: Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Marina del Rey, the Bay Area, Salt Lake City, Bellingham, WA, Long Beach, Oxnard, and back again to Long Beach, where she lived her last days. 

She enjoyed the many times over the years when her relatives came out to California. Always a generous host, our home was always open to relatives and our friends. She truly enjoyed taking care of people, making sure they felt welcomed and keeping them well-fed. She was terrific at making relatively simple meals great. She really excelled at baking, whipping up great cookies, pies and cakes. One of the many things we’re going to miss was the seemingly endless supply of chocolate chip cookies!

She enjoyed music, especially live. She was bitten by the live music bug in 1968 at our first Glen Campbell concert, where we sat in the last row of the Long Beach Arena. Then off she went to many more, fortunately including us or other relatives. She attended countless concerts and performances by some of the top entertainers of their day. Every summer during the mid-70’s, we would drive to Las Vegas just to see the shows...lots of them! One summer, Lonnee and her family, Rex, Shari, and Ron, met us there. It was a great time, especially for Mom and Lonnee. They would get dressed to the nines and go out on the town. One night, they went to see Tom Jones by themselves. Before and after the show, they giggled like schoolgirls. They sat at the front and apparently went wild! 

Mom was a huge fan of Ricky Nelson. Eric was his namesake, as Ricky’s real name was Eric Hililard Nelson. Mom went to see Ricky whenever he performed in Southern California. One time in the early 80’s, Kelly & Kirk went along with Mom to a small club to see him. After the show, as he was being escorted off thru the audience, he stopped in his tracks when he saw Mom and they shared a magical moment. Kelly & Kirk were flabbergasted, to say the least! Another time, Eric & Mom went to another club to see Ricky again; she was dressed-up (maybe overly dressed, considering the club was known as a county western hangout). We sat at a table near the front and, when Rick walked up to the stage, Mom caught his eye. They exchanged glances throughout the performance, rather long ones, I might add. We have enjoyed recounting both of those stories over the years.

She loved organizing ski trips for our family and relatives. Whether it was Lake Tahoe, Utah, or Colorado, she made sure we had fun, a warm ‘apres ski’ snack, and a cozy bed. She tried skiing a couple times, but decided it wasn’t her ‘sport,’ although she looked good coming down the bunny slope in her ski outfit!  However, the tables were turned for her 50th birthday. Her sisters and brothers planned a surprise ski trip for her to Breckenridge, Colorado. They rented a large ski chalet so we could all be together. We went to elaborate lengths to make sure the secret wasn’t divulged, so she was GENUINELY surprised!

She was a big supporter of Kirk’s sporting activities…always the cheerleader! She was involved with Eric’s USC Fraternity Mother’s Club and put on their annual Homecoming chili party. She and Kelly loved going to the movies and going for drinks, as well as celebrating their shared birthday.

When Los Angeles hosted the summer Olympics in 1984, a lottery was held for event tickets. In addition to herself, she entered the three of us so that we were guaranteed tickets. We scored some great ones and attended multiple events, including some historic Gold Medal finals. We even attended the closing ceremonies. The whole two weeks was a very special time for her, and luckily us. She bought a large souvenir photo book of the games, which she displayed with a select few of her other special books. It was still out on her last day.

She loved living near the ocean, although she wouldn’t even dip her toe in the water, as she never learned how to swim. She loved just walking on the beach. Mom also loved to read! She had insomnia most of her life and always had a book to read on her bedside table. She kept in touch with several close friends from high school and was always excited to attend her class reunions. A major highlight for her was the ‘Annual Sisters’ Spa Weekend,’ an event that had been held for the last 20 years.

She was a very tolerant lady. All the road trips, camping trips and Iowa trips we went on with us bickering and wanting this or that, she rarely lost her temper and never raised her voice. When we were young kids, she could barely get her legs into the footwell of the front seat as it was jam-packed with all kinds of snacks, food, drinks, and sundries. She always thought ahead. When Kirk was in high school he was a drummer in a band with a group of friends who hung out all the time and would practice in the house, in the garage, and often just Kirk alone on his drums. She supported him. She enjoyed it. The neighbors, on the other hand….

She also had a strong work ethic and was very dedicated to her jobs. She continued to work in various financial-related jobs until she retired at the age of 79.

We are very grateful that, after being in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities since the beginning of January, she got well enough to return home for what, unfortunately, became her final two weeks. She had been so isolated from all of us due to COVID-19, it meant so much that she was home and we could care for her.

Her wishes were to be cremated, with her ashes scattered over the bluff above our old house in China Cove, where she loved to walk and look out at the harbor and the Pacific Ocean beyond. 

She requested a stone to be laid at the Milnes family plot in the Chariton Cemetery. The three of us are planning a pilgrimage to Chariton for the stone placement and having a party in celebration of Linda's life. It will either be early this fall or late next spring, when the weather is nice. Our mother always hated the humidity and heat! 

In lieu of gifts or donations, she asks that any memorial donations be put toward going out for an ice cream, drink or dinner in her honor and toasting Linda and, most importantly, enjoying yourselves. It would have touched her heart and brought a smile to her face.

She was deeply loved and will be greatly missed…

Kelly, Eric, & Kirk