Margaret Arnold Swearengen, of Monroe City, died Friday, May 3, 2013, in Memphis, TN, just shy of her 100th birthday.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 11 at 1 p.m. at the Monroe City Christian Church with the Reverend Steve Goughnour officiating. A family burial service at St. Jude’s Cemetery will precede the memorial service.
Mrs. Swearengen was born in 1913 when Woodrow Wilson was sworn in as President, World War I had not yet started, and the first four-engine airplane was successfully piloted. Mrs. Swearengen was the daughter of Claude and Elizabeth Arnold Henderson of Monroe City. Claude Henderson was the co-founder and president of Henderson Produce Company in Monroe City.
She married her life-long love and childhood sweetheart, Mark Twain Swearengen, in 1935. They had two children: Betty Louis Swearengen Sheppard of Memphis, TN, and Retired Major Mark Swearengen of Chester, VA. In 2007, Margaret Arnold and Mark Twain celebrated their 72nd anniversary. Throughout their long years, they rarely spent a day apart. One popular family anecdote of one of those rare days is of an afternoon when Margaret Arnold went shopping in Quincy with her daughter and granddaughters. When Margaret Arnold called to check on him, he reported that he was “moping around the dinette,” pining for her return. Another story tells of a high school track meet in which Mr. Swearengen was competing in a relay race. More focused on his girlfriend Margaret Arnold standing at the trackside, he missed his turn to receive the baton and had to forfeit the race.
Following the sudden death of Mr. Claude Henderson, Mark T. Swearengen became manager and president of Henderson Produce Company in 1945. With Margaret Arnold as his co-pilot, Mark Swearengen guided the company through many innovations, especially the new technology of drying eggs. This innovative process made eggs readily available for use without refrigeration. Suddenly eggs could be easily shipped anywhere in the world. Dried eggs from Henderson Produce Company were sent during World War II to the front lines of combat and to Allied communities in Europe. For the contributions to the war effort, the Henderson Produce Company received the Army-Navy “E” Award for the years of 1943, 1944, 1945 and 1946. The first “E” award was a very proud moment for the Henderson Produce and all company employees who worked so tirelessly during the stress of wartime.
After World War II, the drying operation was greatly expanded to accommodate new industry products, such as cake mixes and baking products. A by-product of the egg-drying process was technical albumen, a type of glue made from egg white that remained in the shells after breaking. Another new process was the eviscerating and freezing of poultry for sale and shipment to markets all over the country. These new processes required enlarging some buildings and building new ones. One new building was especially designed for the sale of poultry feeds and products developed by the company and marketed under the brand name, Uwanta.
Under the leadership of the Swearengens, the plant that had begun as a small brick building grew to be a complex of several buildings on both sides of Winter Street. Its many activities included the brokering of live poultry, the processing and marketing of frozen poultry including specially prepared kosher poultry, the processing of liquid eggs, dried whole eggs, yolks, and whites, and the marketing of Uwanta agricultural products. Products from Henderson Produce Company were sold in nationwide markets. In 1962, the company was sold to Seymour Foods, Inc. of Topeka, Kansas.
Mrs. Swearengen attended Stephens College in Columbia and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in education. She taught kindergarten in Monroe City when it was privately operated by the Mothers Club. She served on the Monroe City School Board of Education for many years, among the first women to serve on this board. Margaret Arnold was recently honored as an 80-year member of PEO, Chapter H. She held many chapter offices including president.
Mrs. Swearengen was well-known and admired in Monroe City. She was an active member of the Monroe City Christian Church and she often hosted her bridge club in her home. For many years, she and Mr. Swearengen were members of the Hannibal Country Club where they could often be found surrounded by friends. Among her family, she was nicknamed “Little M.A.” The name reflected her somewhat small physical stature but humorously belied her true personage; she was a commanding character, always running the show and never at a loss for knowing precisely what she liked or what she did not. She once stated, “Well, somebody’s got to be the chief - I am!” She was blessed with excellent health and an ever-optimistic outlook.
Mrs. Swearengen is survived by her two children, Mark Arnold Swearengen and wife Gertrud of Chesterfield, VA, Elizabeth (Betty Louis) Sheppard of Memphis, TN; six grandchildren and their spouses: Anita Elizabeth Swearengen of Breckenridge, CO, and Suzanne Marina Swearengen and husband, Shawn Morgan of Myrtle Beach, SC, Elizabeth Sheppard Hurley and husband, Mark, of New York and Chicago, Eleanor Sheppard Wilson and husband, Bill, of St. Louis, Margaret Sheppard Apple and husband, Ed, of Memphis, TN, and Lee Calvin Sheppard III and wife Jessica, of Memphis, TN; and six great-grandchildren: Elizabeth Henderson Apple, Edward Lee Apple, III, Walter Emmett Sheppard and Eleanor Margaret Sheppard of Memphis, TN and Mark MacMillan Wilson and Samuel Louis Wilson of St. Louis.
The Garner Funeral Home and Chapel of Monroe City, Mo. is in charge of arrangements.