John Swain, Galion’s former police chief and safety-service director, dies

GALION — John Swain was Galion’s go-to guy.

A former police officer, police chief, probation officer, community leader, volunteer and safety-service director, Swain, 79, died Thursday.

Those who knew him and worked with him paid tribute to his strength of character and his willingness to always lend a hand.

“John and I kind of grew up together,” said Shirley Clark, an at-large member of Galion’s City Council. “He was so willing to help. Whenever there was something that needed to be done, and you went to John for help, he would do everything he could to help that task get done.”

In 2013, after previously retiring twice from the public sector, Swain began a four-year stint as Galion’s safety-service director, joining Tom O’Leary’s administration as the city, after years, returned to a mayoral form of government.

But even before that, Swain’s caring nature was evident to those who knew and worked with him.

“Some police officers are cocky,” Clark remembered. “John was a nice man. He was always friendly and professional. If you had a problem, his first thought was to help you out the best way he could.

“As a police officer, he definitely was not cocky. He wanted to help. That’s the way he was.”

Swain graduated from Galion High School in 1955. After a stint in the Ohio National Guard and Army Ready Reserve, where he attained the rank of 1st Lieutenant, he received his honorable discharge in 1964.

Hired as a full-time patrolman in Galion in 1960, he was promoted to lieutenant in 1963 and captain in 1968. He became Galion Police Chief in 1971. At that time, he was the youngest police chief in Ohio. He served as chief until his retirement in 1989.

In 1998, he was asked to set up a probation department for the county. He was Crawford County’s chief probation officer for six years, retiring in 2004.

In a news release, the city of Galion expressed its thanks and condolences to a man who spent decades in service to the city in one way or another.

“The administration and employees of the City of Galion extend their condolences to the family of John Swain, who passed away (Thursday) morning. Mr. Swain was part of the City of Galion family for over 30 years.

“He began his public service career as an officer for the Galion Police Department in 1960 and served as Galion’s Chief of Police from 1971-1989. He returned to city government when he was appointed Safety-Service Director in 2013, and retired Aug. 1, 2016.

“Mr. Swain was a dedicated member of our team and will be greatly missed,” the news release said.

John is survived by his wife, Jo. A. (Waldo) Swain; a son, John B. Swain II of Monroe, Michigan and his son, John C. “Chris” (Michelle) Swain III of Galion, and their son, Liam Christopher Swain of Galion. He also has a daughter, Julie Swain Standish of Galion; a brother, Kenneth (Helen) Swain of Galion; and sisters Cass (Dennis) Easterday of Galion and Karen (Paul) Lightfoot of Galion; and a sister-in-law, Corkey Swain of Galion, along with many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Galion City Council president Carl Watt got to know Swain when they both ran for Crawford County Commissioner in 1996. They didn’t run against each other, as both were seeking different seats on the board of commissioners.

“I got to know John while campaigning with him, and after that, working on things for our party,” he said. “John was the kind of guy who when something needed to be done, he found a way to do it.

“As council president, I worked with John a lot. He always had an answer for the question you were asking. He was always ready to do what was needed. He made a difference in this community,” Watt said.

John was active in the community, at First Lutheran Church and with the scouts. He served on numerous committees and boards and he was active in politics, where he chaired many campaign races at the local, state and national levels.

The family will receive friends from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at Richardson Davis Chapel of Snyder Funeral Homes, 218 S. Market St., Galion. A funeral service will be at 11 a.m., Monday, Dec. 19 at First Lutheran Church, 127 South Columbus St. Burial will be in Iberia Cemetery.

A full obituary is inside today’s Galion Inquirer.

Cutline: John. John B. II. John C.(Chris) III. and Liam Christopher Swain Cutline: John. John B. II. John C.(Chris) III. and Liam Christopher Swain

By Russ Kent



Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him with comments or story ideas at