Vanita A. Schwenn Scholarship Fund
Vanita Alberta Schwenn (Nita), (Jan. 4, 1927 – Dec. 26, 2011) was the third of seven children born to Charles Coleman and Esther Lee Jones. She was born outside of the very small community of Coleman in rural southeastern Oklahoma. Nita grew up during the Great Depression and lived her early life in hardship and great poverty. She was only able to attend school through the eighth grade. In those days there were no school buses to transport children who lived miles from the nearest high school to continue their education. Parents boarded their children with families who lived in town for a fee. The Jones family couldn’t afford that fee. They also couldn’t afford to lose one of their best farm hands. Nita was left to help support the family. Despite her hardscrabble upbringing, Nita aspired to have a better life. She was intelligent, hardworking, and tenacious and quite a beauty by anyone’s standards. Vanita Jones Schwenn was a woman who fearlessly took on any project, and did everything she attempted with great style and skill.
Nita lived most of her adult life in California, and owned several very successful businesses, including a knitting shop and beauty shop. She often worked several jobs at the same time. In her early adult life she was a stunning model and competed in several beauty contests. Later, she worked as a successful realtor at Leisure World in Seal Beach, CA, where she carefully saved and invested her earnings.
Throughout her life, Nita was a talented seamstress, artist and crafter, and won many awards and ribbons for her work. She developed a line of handcrafted bears she called UnitaBears, and each of the thousands she made was unique and took on a personality of its own. She was continually improving her craft by learning new techniques and successfully sold many of her creations on the Internet. Nita had a natural gift for making highly sophisticated handcrafts with meticulous perfection.
In spite of Nita’s limited formal education, she was self-taught, and keenly interested in local, national and world events, and always encouraged her many nieces and nephews as well as others to attain as much education as possible. She made it a life goal to help others achieve their educational pursuits. It was her hope that recipients of her Vanita Alberta Schwenn Scholarship would “pay it forward” to help others in need just as she has to complete their education.