Family denied access to WWII veteran before he died at Winter Garden nursing home

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — Roger Swanson lived quite a life.

After finishing high school in Kansas City, he enlisted in the military and later served during World War II.

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“In WWII, he was a hero,” said his grandson, Marshall Swanson. “He was in England dropping bombs on the Germans. Then he was stationed in the Panama Canal zone.”

Post-military, Swanson was the news editor for the Kansas City Star. He then moved to Central Florida to work with Walt Disney as assistant director of publicity for Walt Disney World.

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He even worked as a news anchor in Orlando at two stations, including Ch. 9, before starting a local newspaper.

“My grandfather was the most remarkable man I’ve ever met in my life,” Marshall Swanson said.

“Coronavirus

However, his grandfather’s passion for life wasn’t enough to fight off the effects of age.

After he was hospitalized earlier this year at the age of 94, First Lt. Roger Swanson was sent to Colonial Lakes Health Care, a nursing home in Winter Garden, when the COVID-19 pandemic was heating up.

“The last time we saw him was 55 days before his death,” Marshall Swanson said.

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Last week, the family learned his health was failing. An administrator made the decision not to let the family in to see Swanson take his last breath.

Under the state order to keep visitors out of nursing homes, one exception is “family members, friends, and visiting residents in end-of-life situations."

But the State Agency for Health Care Administration told Channel 9 that each facility may decide whether or not to allow it.

For Marshall Swanson, it has been tough knowing that his grandfather didn’t have his loved ones by his side.

“No one, veteran or not, should have to die alone,” he said.

Marshall said they filed a complaint with the state hoping this kind of thing won’t happen to another family.

The nursing home sent Channel 9 the following statement:

“Our heartfelt sympathy is with any family that has lost a loved one during this unprecedented and difficult time, including the family of Mr. Swanson.

The many new rules under this pandemic have been set by federal, state and local agencies and officials, including that which limits families from seeing their loved ones in an effort to protect our center from the threat of COVID-19.

In the event of a known end-of-life situation, we make every effort to make visitation possible, but every situation is unique.

We understand the hardship these rules may impose on families and residents, and hope the time will soon arrive when they are no longer needed.

Until then, we must continue to follow all CDC and CMS guidelines, work closely with our local and state healthcare officials, and take every measure possible to protect our staff and residents.”

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.