Thirty-seven years after his death, the name Wilmer Swank remains widely recognized in Camas, the city he helped build. A local funeral home, Straub’s, which Swank founded in 1912, is still called Swank’s by the oldtimers, as is Crown Home Furnishings, which Swank opened in 1905.
Swank was the son of pioneers. His father and mother, A. and Mary Firestone Swank, crossed the plains by ox team from Missouri in 1880, settling in Fruit Valley. Wilmer, the youngest child, was born there in 1884.
He attended Vancouver schools and Portland Business College before opening his general merchandise store, W. Swank and Co., in Camas in 1905. His firm specialized in furniture and hardware and in 1924 moved into its present location.
In 1912, Swank opened the first undertaking establishment between Vancouver and Goldendale and continued to operate it until his death.
Swank was married to Hannah Laver, also the descendant of pioneers. They had a son and daughter. The daughter died as a child, but the son grew up to become Dr. Roy Swank, specialist in neurological disorders.
Along with his business successes, Wilmer Swank also was active in Camas government. He served two terms as mayor, and during his administration Camas built its first city hall and bought its water system.
Swank also was instrumental in forming the Camas-Washougal Port District in about 1937 and at his death was serving as chairman of the port commission. He also served as city clerk, city treasurer and member of the Camas School Board.
Swank died in 1952 at the age of 67. His widow lived to the age of 89, dying in 1974.