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Thursday, September 19, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Engineer Harvey Swenson, 86

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Harvey F. "Sandy" Swenson - developer of such seemingly poles-apart devices as the automated, soft-ice-cream dispenser and the artificial kidney machine - had a wall full of licenses and awards.

Some cited his expertise in refrigeration and mechanics. Some noted his role in promoting trade on the Pacific Rim, in the former Soviet Union, and in other nations. Still others named his membership in engineering societies.

Yet none was a college degree.

"Dad was mainly self-educated," said his son, Daniel Swenson of Seattle, who heads the property-management firm begun by his father. "His formal education consisted, I think, of one year of college in Omaha, Neb.

"But in 1948 the University of Washington granted him a license to practice electrical engineering in the state of Washington."

Mr. Swenson, also credited with inventing the milk-shake machine, died of a heart attack Sunday (Sept. 15). He was 86.

Born in Omaha, he came to Seattle to run a floor-polishing firm. Being an ice-cream lover, he modified a polisher motor to run a soft-ice-cream machine, similar to the hand-cranked bucket.

He founded Sweden Freezer Manufacturing in 1932, expanding to include plants in England, Japan (after World War II), and Holland.

Before World War II, he accidentally broke his brother's arm and his own wrist trying to build a portable ski lift.

Sidelined from active duty, he turned his freezer plant to building cold-testers for rivets and guidance systems for Liberty Ships.

In 1962 his company - known for its high standards - attracted the attention of the University of Washington's Dr. Belding Scribner, who wanted to develop a home-dialysis machine. Mr. Swenson worked closely with Scribner, forming Seattle Artificial Kidney Supply.

In his spare time, Mr. Swenson remodeled his Whidbey Island cabin and entertained friends and family with what his daughter, Christine Schrecengost, calls "good stories and good arguments."

He sold his firms in 1976 and entered real-estate management.

"What strikes me is what an incredibly clever, creative person he was," said Schrecengost of Freeland, Whidbey Island. "Back in the days when they burned sawdust in furnaces, he built a train that ran sawdust to our house from where the company dumped it on the lot next door.

"At one time he had an automatic dog feeder that dropped food into the basement. The dog would wait under it and get bonked on the head."

Mr. Swenson - nicknamed "Sandy" for his thatch of sandy-white hair - also built stilts and tiny motorcars for his children.

Later he found uses for the miles of surgical tubing left over from making artificial-kidney machines: He wove it into a lattice railing for his deck, spliced it into a drip-irrigation system for his garden, and inflated it with a bicycle pump to float the heavy crab pots of his Whidbey Island friends.

Other survivors include his wife of 66 years, Nora Swenson of Seattle, and three grandchildren.

Services were to be at 1 p.m. today at Acacia Memorial Park, 14951 Bothell Way N.E., Seattle. Remembrances may go to Trinity Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 97, Freeland, WA, 98249; or to the Millionair Club Charity, 2515 Western Ave., Seattle, WA 98121..

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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