On October 16, 2021, the polka world lost one of the most respected and loved polka promoters in the industry. Eugene (Gene) Swick passed away just two days after his 90th birthday after a long bout with multiple health issues. Born in the Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, NY, he went on to serve his country in the Air Force as a nuclear physicist. After 20 years of service, Gene retired as a lieutenant colonel and began another phase of his career as a senior staff scientist for the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). For the next 30 years, he would make frequent technical presentations to top Department of Defense officials at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. His family life included raising seven children, four girls and three boys, who gave him two grandchildren.
Throughout his life, Gene played a major role in sustaining and promoting polka music. He conducted polka dance exhibitions and promoted polka dances in a variety of venues in Southern California and Arizona for many years. By the sheer force of his will and personal finances, Gene managed to keep polka music alive in the southwestern portion of the country almost single-handedly. His influence was also felt nationally as he helped to financially support polka bands and festivals from coast to coast. More than one major festival would have ceased to exist if it wasn’t for his assistance. A humble man who preferred no recognition, he also helped to fund many polka recordings and endeavors behind the scenes. Among polka professionals in the know, Gene’s generosity is legendary.
Gene was a longtime member of the IPA Executive Board and served for many years as a trustee representing the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Hawaii. He actually bought the first computer ever used by the IPA and helped lead the modernization of the organization. A regular attendee at all major polka festivals, Gene was sought out by ladies of all ages to grace the dance floor and was the first to put a welcoming beverage in a polka fan’s hand. Despite serious health issues during the last few years of his life, Gene continued to serve the IPA as a trustee emeritus until the day of his passing. A true gentleman, Gene Swick will always live in the hearts of the polka people he truly loved.
For his lifetime of dedication to polka music, his regional and national influence on the polka industry, his lengthy service to the IPA, and innumerable philanthropic endeavors, Eugene Swick deserves to be considered for induction into the Deceased Category of the IPA Hall of Fame.