My tribute to Julian Swain—dancer, singer, choreographer and dear friend

By Edith McCauley

Thirty years of memories with the most special person in my life cannot be easily compiled. Julian and I first met in 1981 when he came to Rockford to be a part of Chuck Hoenes’ Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Clock Tower Theatre. Our relationship was based on so much we had in common. Growing up in the Depression years, we had a love of music and the arts, and although he lived his entire life in Chicago and I was a country girl, our lives meshed perfectly.

We spent time in Chicago, experienced all the joys of the city and time here in Rockford, where Julian planted flowers, fed the birds and squirrels, and shared his immense talent with the entire community. Seldom were we out and about, when we did not encounter someone who said, “I saw you sing with Carl Cole,” or “we so enjoyed your performance at the Senior Follies.” He became so much a part of our lives.

Our personal life included trips throughout the country visiting friends from coast to coast and several trips abroad, the most recent to Mexico three years ago.

He and Carl Cole began their musical relationship when Julian choreographed Ain’t Misbehavin’ for NAT. Carl served as musical director, and Julian said, “I want to work with you.” So began their professional and personal relationship.

After many years of failing health, Julian carried on, and it was on St. Patrick’s Day of this year that he sang his songs with Carl at a local church. Although on oxygen, he sang “Mona Lisa” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right” as well as he ever did. Carl, accompanying him, smiled the whole time. I said, “Julian, you need to sing to me every morning.” He was also scheduled to do a song for the Senior Follies in May.

I shall be eternally grateful for our wonderful years together. There was not a day that we did not express our love, and although the aging process is not easy, we lived well.

Our family and friends have gathered in support, for which I am so grateful. Fitzgerald Funeral Home is making arrangements for a Tribute to Julian on May 4. We will be sharing details later. After the first of June, we hope to honor Julian in Chicago. There are reams of his history and his contributions to music and dance, but for me, he will always be that loving, kind man who shared my life. I am so grateful.

From the April 27-May 3, 2011

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