Longtime Espanola resident Ethen L. “Swede” Ekberg, 92, ended his standoff with that mortal foe cancer peacefully at home on August 23, 2022.
Ethen was born the 7th of 8 children on September 1, 1929, at the family farm near Broadwater, Neb.
To say Swede could accomplish anything he set his mind to would be a significant understatement. He lived a remarkable 92 years that was filled with accomplishments, tremendous love, and adventure. Born on the farm on the eve of the Great Depression he embodied the values he learned growing up: an incredible work ethic, the importance of family, loyalty to friends, a thriftiness that brought him financial security and an innate ability to act on the opportunities that presented themselves.
He served in the United States Army during the Korean War in Germany as a Master Sergeant in the Artillery and Tank Division.
He worked in a variety of jobs in his younger years, most significantly as a police officer in Gering & Scottsbluff, NE, Los Alamos, NM, and on the Pro-Force at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He then moved into a position as a Nuclear Engineering Technician from 1961 to 1988. We can’t tell you what he did, but we can tell you it was VERY cool and important. It was when he first arrived in Los Alamos that he was given his familiar nickname “Swede” as an acknowledgement to his Swedish heritage.
Swede married Betty Ewing on October 5, 1952 in Gering, NE. They shared a 59 year journey together until her sudden death in 2011. Both having careers at LANL, raising 3 children, traveling throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe, a military posting in Germany, designing and building two houses together, etc. etc. An amazing life together.
Swede built the home where he raised his family in La Mesilla beginning with a section of the woman’s dormitory from the Manhattan Project. It was there that he taught his children how to take care of animals, ride horses and tend orchards. He and Betty were always “game” to do what it took to make their children successful. This included riding horses into town to participate in the Espanola Valley Rodeo parade, traveling to fairs, rodeos and horse shows around the country. Swede & Betty drove their RV or motorcycle to California, New Orleans and beyond to visit family and friends. A favorite outing was going horse camping in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.
He was a lifetime member of the Elks Association. During his time with the organization, he served in just about every office including: E.R. of the Los Alamos Lodge, NM State President and Grand Lodge District Deputy.
His second career was running his own well drilling business from 1980-85 and his third was B & E Pump Services, a successful water well and pump business from 1985-1998. He owned and operated both with much help from his wife Betty and served hundreds of customers in northern New Mexico.
Swede was an avid hunter and extraordinarily accomplished marksman. In the 1950s he was chosen to be on the U.S. Olympic Pistol Team. He was a founding member of the Northern New Mexico Sporting Club. He dropped an Oryx at over 485 yards in a wind in his 80s. He went on a hunting trip of a lifetime to South Africa at age 86. The best quote from the professional hunter was “Mr. Swede, you crazy old man!” after he dropped a Hartebeest in tall grass standing above the cab of the truck at a long distance…. You get it.
Another of his passions was motorcycles. His first bike was a 1927 Indian Scout that he and his scoutmaster in Nebraska reassembled from a frame and boxes of parts found in a neighbor’s basement when he was 15 years old. It never let up from there. He was a successful dirt track racer in his early years, and he never met a bike on the street he didn’t think he could beat. His sister, Fauneal was known to ride on his and his friend’s bike Roman style through the streets of Gering. Over the years he had dozens and dozens of different bikes, but his pride and joy was his 1951 Indian Chief Roadmaster with a sidecar that he spent 4+ years restoring. He and Betty loved riding it in parades with her in the sidecar or taking it to shows which inevitably led to a trophy.
Swede is survived by his daughter Denise Ekberg (Eric); grandchildren Sarah Parks (Mike), Caleb Ekberg (Trish), Laura Bosserman and 5 great-grandchildren. He is predeceased by his wife Betty, son Scott, daughter Vivian and his siblings.
A memorial in his honor will be held Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, which would have been his 93rd birthday, from 10 a.m. – noon at the Northern Rio Grande Sporting Club, 42 East Arroyo Alamo, La Puebla, 87567.
The family of Ethen L. “Suede” Ekberg have entrusted the care of their loved on to DeVargas Funeral Home of the Espanola Valley.