Barbara Melaas-Swanson, 1982

BARBARA MELAAS-SWANSON of Port Byron, Ill., died Feb. 29, 2012, at age 51. Reverend Dr. Barbara J. Melaas-Swanson, 51, of Port Byron, Ill., died Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 at her home after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Memorials may be made to Messiah Lutheran Church or Pancreatic Cancer Action Network ( The former Barbara J. Melaas was born March 27, 1960 in Decorah, Iowa, the daughter of Ira Joseph Jr. and Alice J. (Logemann) Melaas. She graduated from Rock Island High School in 1978, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa in 1982 and from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pa., in 1986 where she met her future husband. Barbara then attended Durham University in England for her doctoral studies and received her Ph.D. in church history in 1993. She was united in marriage to Rev. Wayne Swanson on Oct. 6, 1990 at St. James Lutheran Church in Rock Island, Ill., and they spent the first three years of their married life in England. While in England she served as an assistant pastor at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, chaplain at the University of Durham and also worked at the Lutheran Student Chaplaincy Center where she administered scholarships for overseas students on behalf of the Lutheran World Federation. Upon returning to the U.S., she served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Romeoville, Ill., and began her part-time teaching career in religious studies at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. Her next call was to First Lutheran Church in Geneseo, Ill., where she served as associate pastor with her husband, from 1997-2000. During that time, she began teaching for Western Illinois University. The couple moved to Port Byron in November 2000 where she has served as co-pastor with her husband at Messiah Lutheran Church. She also taught as a part-time assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Augustana College in Rock Island. Barbara loved spending time with her family and especially enjoyed attending her children’s activities. She had a passion for travel and had a special place in her heart for England and her friends there. She also enjoyed music and gardening and loved to go on long walks. Barbara touched the lives of the many people she encountered along her life’s journeys and was blessed with so many special friends. Survivors include her husband, Reverend Wayne Melaas-Swanson, Port Byron; children, Daniel and Kirsten Melaas-Swanson, Port Byron; mother, ALICE (LOGEMANN) MELAAS ‘54, Rock Island; sisters and their spouses, KRISTINE MELAAS MERKEL ‘83 (Keith Merkel), Marshfield, Wis., KARI MELAAS ’88 (Tony Owings), Roseville, Calif.; mother-in-law, Janet Swanson, Oxnard, Calif.; brothers-in-law, Kenneth Swanson, San Jose, Calif., Brian (Erin) Swanson, Santa Clarita, Calif.; and nieces, Emily and Hanna Merkel and Katelyn (Binbin) Owings. She was preceded in death by her father, IRA JOSEPH MELAAS, JR. ‘54, brother, Thomas Joseph Melaas, father-in-law, Vernie Swanson, and her grandfather, IRA MELAAS ‘19. Online condolences may be left at