116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The name “Stephen Norman” may not ring a bell around Eastern Iowa, but plenty of people have known and loved him by his radio name, Ric Swann.
Swann, for years part of KZIA radio’s Schulte & Swann morning team, died of cancer early Wednesday in Ohio, where he recently relocated from Cedar Rapids to be with family. He was 62.
“He was Ric all the time in town, and then when he left radio, it always Steve,” said former Cedar Rapids resident Scott Schulte, now of Ridgefield, Conn. The two worked together on the radio for about 25 years. “I called him Steve, but I always had to pause.”
So how did Steve Norman morph into Ric Swann?
Friend and former KZIA colleague Eric Hanson heard it was because the West Virginia radio station where Swann worked early in his career already had a couple of Steves on air, so the program director “took out a phone book, and opened it, and pointed to a name at random, and ‘Ric Swann’ it was.”
His career brought him to Cedar Rapids in 1994, joining the company now known as KZIA Inc., anchored by Z102.9. Over the years, he worked as a disc jockey, program director, music director and on-air personality in formats from Top 40 to country, and helped launch KZIA’s SmartFM in 2017, before leaving the company in 2020.
He also attended countless community events as a face for the stations at which he worked, reaching so many people who began flooding Facebook with fond memories, as news of his death began spreading over social media.
“He brought sunshine and kindness into the world and shared that reliably, consistently for decades. We counted on him for those things,” said Julie Hein, CEO of KZIA Inc.
He also made the leap to stage in the Corridor.
Dennis Green, general manager at KCCK Jazz 88.3 radio, was one of the card-players with Swann in the Old Creamery Theatre’s 2009 production of “The Odd Couple.”
“I knew him a little bit as a colleague, but then when we got cast in ‘The Odd Couple’ together, we spent so much time together, and I got to know him very well. It was very fun for me to watch how much he enjoyed being onstage as an actor, because that was his jumping-off point to do several plays.”
When Green wrote the script for “Follidays,” presented by Orchestra Iowa and the Follies in December 2009, he created the role of the grumpy protagonist specifically for Swann, and “he nailed it,” Green said.
“He was never grumpy in real life,” Hein said, “but he could parody anything.“
“There was a lot more to him than just being a voice on the radio, but that was what he was meant to do,” Green said.
Remembered for being funny, kind, brilliant and generous on air and off, Swann became family to his Cedar Rapids radio colleagues, to the point where: “He’s actually also a Schulte,” his longtime Schulte & Swann radio partner said.
Swann was golfing buddies with Schulte’s brother, Brian, and spent every Thanksgiving at the Schulte family feast.
With his hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio, being three states away, Swann spent several Christmas Eve dinners and Easter celebrations with another longtime friend and radio colleague, Eric Hanson of Cedar Rapids.
“We’re going to miss his face and the great stories he would tell at our table,” Hanson said.
And Swann — who mentored Hanson at the radio station — was the best man when Eric and Shannon Hanson were married nearly 26 years ago.
“He still owes me a bachelor’s party, which I can’t get now,” Hanson said. “All of my groomsmen were under 21, so we couldn’t have a bachelor’s party. I have a perpetual IOU that I’ll now not be able to cash in.”
Schulte never heard Swann say anything unkind about anyone, and never heard him complain about how he felt, even as his illness progressed. Over the phone a couple of weeks ago, Swann said he didn’t want to talk about what was happening — he just wanted to laugh. So they spent an hour making each other laugh.
“From the standpoint of (our) show, he was the rock,” Schulte said. “He ran the show. He ran the clock. He had all of that programming knowledge ... and I was just the guy on the side spitting out ideas and spitting out this laugh. But he was he was the one that kept the train going on all the tracks.”
For more information, see his obituary, publishing Friday on thegazette.com or in The Gazette.
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