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Man killed on way to World Cup leaves lasting impression

Seattle man bound for Brazil makes a brief stop in Tigard

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Richard Swanson, 42, was photographed by The Times a few days before his death on Highway 101 in Lincoln City. Swanson was walking from Seattle to Brazil in time for next years FIFA World CupWhen Mary Downer last spoke with Richard Swanson, he was leaving Lincoln City, making his way south, the same direction he had been walking for two weeks.

"I talked to him this morning," she said Tuesday. "It's so shocking."

The 42-year-old Seattle man had been trekking his way on foot from Washington to Sao Palo, Brazil, in time for the start of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, the international soccer tournament that pits nation against nation in one of the most watched sporting events in the world.

It was a 10,000-mile journey that would take him more than 400 days, he estimated.

Kicking a soccer ball along the side of the road, Swanson's march had taken him down Interstate 5 through Portland and into Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood before continuing on to McMinnville and then to the Oregon coast.

But Swanson’s journey ended tragically Tuesday morning, when he was struck by a car outside of Lincoln City and killed on impact.

Details are still being released about his death, but according to Lincoln City police, Swanson had been walking along the southbound shoulder of Highway 101 when he was struck from behind by a pickup truck.

Swanson was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead.

The investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed as of Wednesday.

The Times caught up with Swanson when he reached Tigard on Friday, May 10.

Walking along Pacific Highway, it was easy to pick Swanson out of a crowd. His large pack carried his website breakingbrazil.com on the back.

Though he had been walking for more than 12 hours straight, he was in good spirits, a smile never far from his lips.

At his feet was the ever present blue soccer ball, which he had kicked along since he left the Space Needle on May 1.

“It’s been a good day,” he said, his baseball cap shielding his eyes from the warm sun. “I’ve done 22 miles today.”

Swanson had been laid off from his job as a graphic designer when he first started thinking about making the pilgrimage to Brazil.

“I started to go through the list of things I wanted to do with my life, and I have always wanted to go to the World Cup,” Swanson said. “It seemed like it was possible, you know? And I said, ‘I should walk there.’”

After discovering the One World Futbol company, which donates soccer balls to needy children in countries all around the world, Swanson said he knew what he had to do.

“It felt like it was the one missing piece,” he said. “It was fate that I should go for it.”

'Every man'

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Richard Swanson walked through Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood on Friday on his way to Brazil. Swanson was struck by a car in Lincoln City, Tuesday. He was killed on impact, family members said.Swanson had only recently gained interest in soccer a few years earlier, but the sport had quickly become an obsession for him, he said. He enjoyed playing on a local recreation team in the Seattle area.

“I fell in love with it instantly," he said. "Every Thursday, when my team would play, I would be jonesing all day long, waiting to get off work so that I could go play. I just love the game and love being a part of it.”

Swanson described himself as an “every man” and said that was part of what he liked so much about the sport.

“All these countries in the World Cup, no matter where they stand in the world, they can stand as equals in soccer,” he said. “They are all on the same footing. So many people enjoy it together. Unlike baseball or football, which are really American sports, soccer goes across all countries. You don’t have to know someone very well, but if there’s a soccer game on, they can be instant friends.”

Swanson didn’t have a ticket for any of the games during the month-long tournament (tickets aren’t available yet), but said on Friday even if he never gets to see a match live, the experience was worth it.

“People have been so supportive,” he said. “People will give me a thumbs up or honk as they drive by. I have no idea where they heard of me, but it’s awesome.”

Swanson’s trip had been making the rounds across social media sites as friends shared his excursion, finding places for him to stay for the night when possible.

Downer heard about Swanson’s journey from her sister, who had been following the adventure online.

“I love this kind of stuff,” Downer said. “I am all for traveling and solo travel and anything that will allow you to connect with others in a completely different level — and get to know where you live.”

Downer is no stranger to solo travel herself. She drove across the country in 2008.

The two became fast friends, and Downer had been texting Swanson Tuesday morning.

Swanson really connected with people on his journey, Downer said.

“He was only in my life for a short time,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “But he meant something to me.”

Before settling down at Downer’s home Friday night, Swanson said he wanted his journey to be more than just about going to the World Cup.

“People dream of doing big things, but then they grow up and have kids, a mortgage, all things that start to restrict them. But I’m just an every day guy and I’m (doing) it,” he said.

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