What is Hamilton's Academy of Grief and Loss?

Death and grief are common human experiences, yet these experiences tend to be different for every individual. As a result, Hamilton's Academy of Grief & Loss offers a wide variety of resources available to you and your family as you begin to work through your grief.
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Academy of Grief and Loss
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Hamilton's Academy of Grief and Loss offers a variety of services to educate, support and connect with those who are grieving.
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Community Events

Hamilton's Funeral Homes host a variety of events to serve and give back to our community.

Service Details


Thursday, February 16, 2017
4:00 - 7:00 pm
Hamilton's on Westown Parkway
3601 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, Iowa 50266


Friday, February 17, 2017
10:00 am
Hamilton's on Westown Parkway
3601 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, Iowa 50266


Hamilton's Crematory
Des Moines, Iowa


Hamilton's on Westown Parkway
3601 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, Iowa 50266
(515) 224-0078

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James Swessinger

James Louis Swessinger passed away peacefully on February 10, 2017 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and a brief illness.

Jim was born in Boone, Iowa on September 19, 1936 to Edmond and Eva (Barger) Swessinger. At age 5, his family moved from Boone to Marshalltown, Iowa where Edmond worked as a carpenter for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. For a time, Edmond would commute by train to Chicago, Illinois for work during the week, leaving Jim and his younger brothers Karl and Tom in the care of their mother.

Jim graduated from Marshalltown High School in 1954. The next year he began classes at Marshalltown Junior College. Upon earning his associate’s degree, he matriculated to the University of Northern Iowa to complete a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. During his last semester at UNI, he took ill with a particularly virulent case of the flu. The illness caused him to fall behind in his coursework. That—and some measure of buyer’s remorse with respect to his chosen major—led him to abandon his studies for a time.

In 1959, he was drafted by the United States Army. Ineligible for combat due to his congenitally poor eyesight, he was trained as a clerk typist and stationed first in Hawaii before being transferred to a remote island base in Japan. There, Jim was tasked with recording top secret army intelligence. So top secret, in fact, that upon discharge from active duty in 1961 the Army relieved him of the requirement to serve a term of years in reserve status—a development Jim found not at all unwelcome (although he loved his country, he did not love being a soldier).

Upon discharge from the military, Jim took a job at the hospital in Marshalltown in its collections department. In May of 1968 he met Laura Jo Long, who was then in the midst of her first year as an elementary school librarian. Having worked up the courage to ask her out, she agreed to accompany him on a trip to Des Moines to see Bill Cosby perform stand-up comedy at the KRNT Theatre. Their courtship proceeded swiftly. They were engaged in July of 1968 and married on December 29 of that year.
Laura encouraged Jim to finish his degree. In 1969, he graduated from the UNI with a major in history, receiving his degree, coincidentally, in the same ceremony as Laura’s younger sister. Later that year, Jim and Laura moved to the west side of Des Moines, Iowa where Jim took a position with the State of Iowa Department of Workforce Development assisting the recently unemployed with obtaining benefits. In 1971, he transferred to the division that collected unemployment insurance premiums from recalcitrant employers. Jim was a dogged tax collector. He recounted an interaction with a particular employer that was a repeat offender. The employer, clearly exasperated at Jim’s persistence shouted through the telephone, “What do I have to do to get you off of my back?” Jim, with characteristic quick wit, replied, “Well, you could start by paying your taxes!” Jim retired from the State in 2003 as supervisor of the Collections Department.
Jim and Laura had two children. In 1979, their son Matt was born and in 1981 their daughter Jenny followed.

Jim, who lived to the age of 80 despite a pathological fear of the doctor’s office, was a lifelong and staunch Democrat. He was also something of a hobbyist—dabbling in stamp collection, model railroading and fishing. He also greatly enjoyed photography and, for several years, developed his own photographs in a darkroom that he set up in the basement of his home. He was a capable vegetable gardener and backyard barbequer; a die-hard Iowa Hawkeye and Chicago Cubs fan; a master of the dad joke.

He is survived by his wife Laura, his son Matt and his wife Kate Spilseth, his daughter Jenny and her husband Erik Bailey and Erik’s two children Mercedes and Ben, his brothers Karl and Tom, nephews Mark and David Swessinger and niece Jane Swessinger Stadt, and five grandnieces and grandnephews.
He was predeceased in October by his late-in-life best friend Buddy the dog, with whom he could be spotted walking about the Merle Hay neighborhood thrice daily until his illness deprived him of his independence.
His family is grateful for the excellent care he received at the Ramsey Village Memory Unit over the past year-and-a-half.

Visitation with the family will take place from 4:00 to 7:00 pm on February 16, 2017 at Hamilton’s on Westown Parkway, 3601 Westown Parkway in West Des Moines. A memorial service and luncheon will follow on February 17, 2017 at 10:00 am also at Hamilton’s.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a memorial contribution be made either to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa or the Alzheimer’s Association of Iowa.
Jim was a loving husband and a caring, nurturing and loving father. He will be terribly missed.

Online condolences may be expressed at www.HamiltonsFuneralHome.com