April 9, 1930 - March 31, 2021
Florence (Oberg) Schwab, age 90, passed away peacefully at Lakewood Reserve Senior Living in Lakewood, Colorado on March 31, 2021 with family by her side.
Florence was born on April 9, 1930 to parents Chester W. and Beatrice “Betty” (Finley) Oberg in Clay Center, Kansas. She graduated from Clay Center High School where she was in the National Honor Society and Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music.
At age 8, Florence discovered her passion for music, particularly the harp, and learned to play a small Clark Irish harp. As a teenager and adult, she graduated to an elegant full-sized harp and enjoyed a long career as a professional harpist and lover of beautiful music. She studied under harpists Marie Roselli in Kansas City and Mary Bickford in Wichita. Growing up in Clay Center, Florence and her twin sister Franc Harriett often performed together, singing and dancing in many school and community events. Their mother designed their costumes and choreographed the dances. Florence fondly recalled the details of the dresses they wore and songs they sang up until her last days.
Florence married Merle Edwin Schwab on June 1, 1950 in Clay Center. She and Merle made their home in Wichita, Kansas and in 1957 moved to Manhattan, Kansas. They had three children, Linda, Melodie, and Scott. As Merle established his professional civil engineering firm with partner Frank Eaton (Schwab Eaton Associates), Florence completed her degree at Kansas State University and was a harp instructor in the KSU Music Department.
After Merle’s sudden death from a heart attack in 1981, Florence was a widow at age 51 and never remarried. She gradually found her own path with the support of close friends and became active in the Manhattan community and beyond. In 1984, she spent a year in Taiwan teaching harp and English. She attended many harp conferences around the U.S. and was president of various organizations in Manhattan. These included the local chapter of the United Nations Association, American Association of University Women, and the KSU World Friendship Organization. She tutored many international students in English as a second language.
Florence was best known in her community for the magnificent harp music she provided at many weddings, brunches, and dedications. She was most proud of performing in the Kansas State Capitol Building rotunda in Topeka at receptions for Governor Joan Finney and Senator Nancy Kassebaum. She was the solo harpist in “La Boheme” and “The Fantasticks,” among countless other performances.
Later in life, Florence moved into the Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community, still driving her favorite Sebring convertible, and dressing in glamorous colorful clothes. Her signature red lipstick, red furniture and flare for decorating were well known. She began writing poetry and essays while at Meadowlark which her family will treasure.
Florence’s last place of residence was in Lakewood Reserve Senior Living Community in Lakewood, Colorado beginning in May 2019 where she could be near her family. She continued writing essays, enjoying bus trips to the mountains, attending a poetry group, and listening to her beloved music, especially by Josh Groban, the cellist Hauser, and composer Ennio Morricone. She prided herself in staying current with technology using her computer and cell phone at age 90 and in her knowledge about the world around her, closely following politics and world events.
Florence is survived by her children, Linda (Greg) Messmer of Lakewood, CO, Melodie (Larry) Marine of Clearwater, FL, and Scott (Marcy) Schwab of Heartland, TX. She is also survived by two sisters, Janet “Jo” Oberg of Clay Center, KS, and Pamela (John) Sharp of Albuquerque, NM. She will be missed by her grandchildren, Tim (DeeDee) Den, Josh (Cristina) Den, Chad Marine, Ethan (Kelley) Marine, Madison Marine, Trevor Schwab, Emiko Schwab, and step-grandchildren Justin (Cristin) Marine, Priscilla Mudge, Mike (Piper) Rodko, Sheri (David) Ricardo, and Mike Messmer. She leaves behind 13 great-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren and 5 nieces and nephews, of whom she was very proud.
She was preceded in death by her husband Merle Schwab, father Chester Oberg, mother Beatrice “Betty” Oberg, and her identical twin sister Franc Harriett Oberg.
The family wishes to express our sincere thanks, love and gratitude to the many caregivers involved in Florence’s care at Meadowlark Hills, Lakewood Reserve, and most recently the Dignity Hospice staff, especially Sydnee, Kelsey, Desiree, and Avon.
Florence wished to be cremated and her remains will be laid to rest at Manhattan Sunrise Cemetery next to her husband Merle in a small graveside service in Manhattan, Kansas. No date has been determined at this time.
If you wish to leave memorial donations in her name, she requested that contributions be sent to:
American Humane Society (https://www.americanhumane.org)
Kansas State University Foundation (https://ksufoundation.org)