A scary tradition keeps memory alive

Pasadena Halloween scare-fest a memorial to Adam Swick

October 31, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

For Adam Swick of Pasadena, Halloween was bigger than Christmas. He gloried in setting up haunted trails at his sister's house every year. At 6-foot-3, he towered over the children he led through frightening scenes populated with coffins, an electric chair and ghoulish creatures.

"Once Halloween was over, he would say, `Only 364 days left to the next Halloween,' " said Teresa Swick, who is married to Adam's nephew. "That's all he looked forward to."

On March 10, Adam Swick died in his sleep of a previously undiagnosed condition, shocking and devastating his family and friends. Swick, 30, had sarcoidosis, an inflammatory condition in which tiny lumps of cells form in organs. No one knew he was sick.

The close-knit Swicks wouldn't let the first Halloween since his death pass without putting together Adam's scare-fest.

"We just felt like it would be an injustice not to do it," said David Schmincke, Adam's brother-in-law.

The family has set up a free Halloween event tonight to honor Adam's memory at Teresa Swick's home in Pasadena. The event will feature pumpkin painting, games and a haunted trail depicting scenes from horror movies such as The Exorcist and The Ring.

"It's pretty scary," Swick said. "I'd be scared."

The annual event was moved from the home of Adam's sister Christina in Lansdowne to Pasadena because she did not think she could handle the event so soon after her brother's death, Schmincke said.

Although some family members chose not to participate, they understand the need for others to hold the event, he said.

"Adam's death left some pretty deep scars," Schmincke said.

The event will be on Teresa Swick's 4-acre property, which abuts the home Adam Swick shared with his parents, Elaine and Charlie Swick, and his fiancee, Shannon Trebes.

He and Trebes had planned to marry this month after a five-year engagement. Instead, Trebes spent what would have been his 31st birthday Friday putting flowers and balloons on his grave.

She will hand out candy tonight and help with crafts but said she does not have the heart to dress up as the Goth vampire she portrayed last year.

"Just the thought ...," she said, her voice trailing off. "I don't know. Maybe it will be healing" to participate.

Trebes, 30, and Swick had dated since they were teenagers. With his height and stocky build, he looked intimidating, but Trebes said he "was a big teddy bear, unselfish, thoughtful."

Swick was a mechanical contractor, and Trebes studied to be an ultrasound technician. They planned to move out of his parents' house and get their own place once they married.

Swick seemed healthy, although Trebes recalled that he had shortness of breath. He had mentioned discomfort in his chest but complained about it only once.

"If he was sick ... he hid it well," said Trebes, who lives with her parents in Baltimore.

His death rocked a family that had dealt with tragedy almost exactly two years earlier. Teresa Swick's 8-year-old son, Timmy, was killed in a car accident in March 2005.

Since Adam died, family members have attended services together at Street Light Christian Fellowship Church in Baltimore, Swick said.

"It really brought our family together even more," she said. "It's really amazing what tragedies can do if you let them."

Because Adam Swick was the youngest of five children, he was close in age to his nephew, D.J. Swick, Teresa Swick's husband. Adam Swick seemed more like a brother than an uncle to D.J., Teresa Swick said.

The couple took on the task of re-creating Adam Swick's view of Halloween.

Several weeks ago, Teresa and D.J. Swick bulldozed part of the wooded area of their property to create a path. They set up a half-dozen scenes with lighting and smoke effects.

Schmincke has taken over the role of the scary wizard guide for the trail. Friends and family have pitched in to donate food, prizes and props for the event. Papa John's Farm in Severn is donating pumpkins.

Schmincke thinks Adam Swick would have been pleased with his family's efforts.

"I could just picture him not being happy with us if we didn't give it a try," Schmincke said.

The Haunted Trail will be open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 8105 W. Buttercup Lane in the Hampton Oaks community of Pasadena. Visitors also can enter from 8015 Middlebury Drive in the Middlebury development. Information: teresaswick@comcast.net.

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