CCJCC kindergarten teacher Bobbi Swedelson dies

After teaching religious school for some 24 years, Bobbi Swedelson of Fremont decided to get a degree in early childhood education. So she did. She was in her early 60s.

"We were all so proud of her when she received her A.A. in early childhood education after so many years," said Swedelson's daughter Debi Mishael, program director of the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center. "She worked hard for that degree and spent many hours in night classes and doing internship teaching. She was so proud of the A's she received on every paper and assignment. She was proud and we were proud of her. She set a great example for us to follow."

Swedelson, 65, died June 8 in Fremont.

She grew up in Oakland, and was a founding member of Temple Beth Torah in Fremont.

She had a long and varied career. When she wasn't teaching religious school, she was operating Wallpapers to Go in San Lorenzo and later, Wallpaper Express in Dublin. According to Mishael, her mother "could do anything. Her skills were limitless."

She was the kind of mother who had an open-door policy for her four children's friends. "There was always room for one more at the table," Mishael said.

"There were many late nights where my brother Mike and his friends would have the engine of his car dismantled and spread throughout the garage," Mishael said. "Mom was up at 3 a.m. cooking a snack for the crew. It wasn't unusual to find extra faces spending the night on weekends or attending family events like Chanukah or Passover. Mom didn't mind the messes and didn't care how many of our friends were over. She always preferred to have us under foot and under wing."

For the last four years, Swedelson taught kindergarten at the Contra Costa JCC preschool.

"It was something special to see Bobbi celebrating Shabbat in the classroom and teaching the kids to be thankful to God," said Glenda Janis, whose son Nathan was in Swedelson's class. "Her patience, understanding, warmth and caring are things that we all felt deeply."

After her death, Swedelson's students came up with a list, "The 16 Good Things About Bobbi," taking the concept from a children's book — "The 10 Best Things About Barney" — they had heard recently.

"Bobbi gave me the tightest hugs in the whole wide world," said Adam Carp, one of her students. "I liked her because she was the bestest teacher and she was my mom's Sunday School teacher," said another student, Jordan Dong.

Swedelson overcame breast cancer eight years ago. In February, she had a kidney removed, also due to cancer.

She is survived by her husband of 46 years, Jack Swedelson of Fremont; her children Michael Swedelson of Fremont, David and Diane Swedelson of San Ramon, Debi and Sam Mishael of Concord and Andrea Finley of Fremont; brother Bruce Skoll of Arizona and nine grandchildren.

Donations can be made to the American Cancer Society, 235 Montgomery St. No. 320, S.F., CA 94104 or to the Debby Kaplan Memorial Fund, Temple Beth Torah, 42000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, CA 94539 or to the Contra Costa JCC, 2071 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA, 94595.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."