Harvey Ralph Swack (nee Grundstein), Aug. 28, 1923 – Oct. 21, 2021, was born in Cleveland, the first of five children to Arthur Grundstein and Lillian (nee Kritzer) Grundstein. Harvey was kind, generous, creative, ingenious, encouraging, loving and the most positive person you’ll ever know. He got up every day and said, “What a great day, and I’m going to make it one.” A truly unique individual, it is remarkable all that he saw, lived, endured, survived, created, contributed, loved and shared over his 98 years.
Harvey met his wife, Lois Swack (nee Goldston) in the Hillel House at The Ohio State University. He wed at age 24 and was married for over 65 years until Lois passed away in 2013. He received his Bachelor of Science degree and master’s degree in business education from The Ohio State University. He served in the US Navy in WWII, in the South Pacific, as an aircraft mechanic.
After losing his father at age 10, Harvey and his brother, Myron, spent five years at Bellefaire, a Jewish orphanage in Shaker Heights, where he spent his free time pursuing his love of airplanes and cars. When other kids were playing sports, Harvey was building models and reading everything he could find. During this time, his aunt took him to visit the Great Lakes Aircraft Company which later went bankrupt in the depression – an event that would influence him later in life.
After five years at Bellefaire, Harvey and his brother Myron were reunited with his mother and other siblings on a dairy farm in West Salem. He lived and worked on the farm until he went to Ohio State in 1941.
After the Navy and college, Harvey started his career in Mansfield, opening a hobby shop selling model planes and cars. He also sold the first Barbie and Ken dolls in Ohio. Harvey and Lois then moved to Cleveland where Harvey started his career in parks, first as the executive director of Roundup Lake in Mantua, where he implemented programs to create awareness of camping, bring scouts and inner city youth to the park. In the mid ‘60s he became the public relations director for the Cleveland Metropolitan Parks where he was responsible for passing the tax levies that paid for the parks. He implemented numerous programs to get people to the parks who wouldn’t otherwise have access, and worked to make important acquisitions, like the Cleveland Zoo. Because of this success, he was tapped by the George Gund Foundation and Ohio congressman, John Seiberling, to lead a citizen’s initiative to establish Ohio’s first National Park in 1973, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Even with all these achievements, Harvey would tell you the thing he loved most was teaching business in community colleges in Cleveland and later in Boston.
In 1962, Harvey acquired the rights from the FAA for the Great Lakes Sport Trainer, a two seat, open cockpit, aerobatic biplane, and built the company selling plans and parts to homebuilders. He also acquired the rights to the Baby Great Lakes, a small and powerful one seat version. In 1972, he sold Great Lakes to a group who put the Sport Trainer back into production. Through this process he became a pioneer in the experimental aircraft industry and an early participant in the EAA AirVenture annual air show in Oshkosh, Wis., touching the lives of thousands of people around the world.
Nothing was more important to Harvey than family. He would frequently exclaim how much he loved his relatives and never missed an opportunity to see them. He instilled this love of family into his. Harvey came from a large family and is survived by his sister, Sondra Epstein, and his brother, Bernard Swack; his children, Judith Swack (Terrence Furman), Michael Swack (Jayne Adelman) and Terry Swack (Louis Weitzman); and grandchildren, Laura Furman (Harry Byres), Eric Swack, Jeremy Swack and Rachel Swack.
Harvey will always be remembered for his humanity, humility, positivity and gratefulness which, without a doubt, contributed to his longevity.
He passed away peacefully in his home the morning of Oct. 21, 2021.
Funeral services will be held at noon Oct. 25 at Sharon Memorial Park in Canton, Mass.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Cleveland Metroparks (clevelandmetroparks.com/parks/support).