A softball field turned out to be a fitting place for friends and family to honor a softball phenom.
The night before her funeral at the Durfee Street Chapel in Grantsville, the public paid their respects and reflected on the athletic prowess of Wilma Rebecca Swenson at Deseret Peak Complex softball fields Aug.19 under the lights.
Swenson passed away Aug. 12 at age 93 at her home in Grantsville. During her lifetime she excelled in sports and music.
She starred as a feisty fastball pitcher in professional softball leagues throughout her life.
“With COVID-19 we were having a bit of a hard time with services and my wife Careen suggested we could do something at Deseret Peak,” said Wilma’s son Matt Swenson. “I called my friend Troy Johansen and he set things up for us.” Johansen supervises activities at the softball complex.
In 1993, Wilma was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame for her softball prowess.
Matt said two representatives of Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation (USHOFF) brought a bouquet of flowers to the ballpark. He said Rich Valdez, a board member of (UHSOFF) helped with the event.
Wilma played for the Chicago Belle’s, the Utah Shamrocks and Hill Air Force Base. She threw 49 no-hitters as a pro, was “Rookie of the Year” and named to the all-star team. While playing for the Belle’s, she pitched a doubleheader, winning both games and pitched nine games in seven days, earning the name “Iron Arm.” She was listed as one of Sports Illustrated’s 50 greatest athletes for Utah.
“I was just a little kid but remember watching her pitch one or two games for the Shamrocks and everybody making a big fuss,” Matt said. “She taught me how to pitch in baseball.”
Matt said his mother could also rifle a football with accuracy.
“We would throw the football in our yard. I’d tell her what pattern I was going to run and my brother Marvin would try to defend it,” Matt said.
“She also had a college scholarship for playing the trumpet and taught me how to play the trombone,” he added.
Daughter Susan said the viewing at Deseret Peak Complex was very, very successful.
“It really touched our hearts,” Susan said.
“She used to play catch with Marvin and Matt, but I was way too scared to play catch with her she threw the ball so fast,” Susan said
“Mom also played the ukulele, trumpet and learned how to play the piano. I have a recording of her playing taps at age 90. Even later on she wanted to play the trumpet and told me there must be something wrong with the trumpet, but her lungs were not as strong,” Susan said.
Despite the athletic glory, Wilma’s obituary states her greatest accomplishment was her family.
A story about Wilma’s life adventure appeared in the April 17, 2018 edition of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. She had been asked to throw out the first pitch for the opening of the Grantsville Softball League. Her pitch, like many of her goals in life, hit the strike zone.