Bigfoot Encounters

Anthropologist Daris Swindler "adored students"

(August 13, 1925 December 6, 2007)

Dr. Daris Swindler traveled the world for his work
conducting archaeological digs in Egypt and Pakistan, traveling to Easter Island...
he also was given a second generation copy of the Patterson film...

Dr. Daris Swindler traveled the world for his work — conducting archaeological digs in Egypt and Pakistan, traveling to Easter Island to study early settlement patterns of the first inhabitants.

But the former Edmonds resident was just as happy helping a neighbor to identify a shark tooth as he was working on headlining investigations.

Dr. Swindler, a renowned anthropologist and teacher, died Dec. 6 while undergoing cancer treatment in Spokane, Washington. He was 82.

A professor at several universities throughout the country, Dr. Swindler dedicated his life to teaching. From 1968 to 1991, he was a professor of physical anthropology at the University of Washington.

He also taught human anatomy at Cornell University Medical College (now known as Weill Medical College of Cornell University) and at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Swindler was a prolific writer and a leader in researching dental development in primates, said William Morton, former director of the Washington National Primate Research Center at the UW.

Dr. Swindler's family said his ability to influence his students was undoubtedly his greatest achievement.

"He just really adored students," said Dr. Swindler's wife, Kathryn Rantala Swindler.

Up until a week before his death, Dr. Swindler was critiquing papers sent to him from students all over the world, said son Bruce Swindler.

Bruce Swindler remembers sitting in on one of his father's lectures and being amazed at his ability to capture the audience's attention.

"He would just stand up and intrigue everybody in the audience," he said.

Just before his death, a graduate fellowship in Dr. Swindler's name was established in the University of Washington's anthropology department.

Dr. Swindler was born in Morgantown, W.Va., in 1925. He served in the Navy in World War II, working on tankers in the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

He went on to study anthropology at West Virginia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Swindler's professional career took him around the globe. Morton, Dr. Swindler's friend and colleague, recalls accompanying Swindler on an archaeological dig in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Observing Dr. Swindler's team investigating Egypt's historical tombs was a highlight of Morton's career, he said.

Swindler lent his forensic expertise to work on several high-profile murder cases, including helping to identify human remains in the Ted Bundy and the Green River killer investigations.

After retiring from teaching, Dr. Swindler wrote three books on anthropology.

He enjoyed his busy life, said Kathryn Swindler. He loved to fish for salmon off Alki Point in West Seattle and to crab off the Dungeness Spit in Sequim. Dr. Swindler was also a talented swing dancer, his wife said.

In addition to his wife, Kathryn Rantala Swindler, of Spokane, Dr. Swindler is survived by his children Gary Swindler of St. Louis, Darece Swindler of Los Angeles, Linda Venters of Spokane, Dana Swindler of Minneapolis, Bruce Swindler of Warden, Grant County, Jeffrey Swindler of Spokane, and Jason Swindler of Arizona; and seven grandchildren. He is also survived by his second wife, Jean Swindler. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Carolyn Swindler.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 26 at Bethel Lutheran Church of Shoreline, 17418 Eighth Ave. N.E., Shoreline.

Remembrances may be made to the Swindler Fund, care of Professor M. Kahn; University of Washington Department of Anthropology; Box 353100; Seattle, WA 98195.

Lauren Vane: 253-234-8604 or

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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