Markleeville couple pulling up stakes

Why is the big yellow house, with three dormer windows, in Markleeville for sale? The owners of the house, Dean and AnnaLee Swaim, appear to be so content in their picture-perfect home.

I regret that I've never learned American Sign Language, because the Swaims are deaf, but we have communicated over the years by writing notes and now, by e-mail.

The Swaims have lived in Alpine County for 16 years, retiring from their work in deaf education when they lived in Concord, Calif. Actually, their resumes depict a wide swath of places where they've taught.

They met while they were undergraduate students at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. Upon being asked his opinion of the recent Gallaudet students' protests against the board of regents' choice of president, Swaim replied, "I don't think much of the way that the campus police are handling this mess."

Students went on hunger strikes and marches and stayed away from classes, ultimately leading to the resignation of the new president of the university.

"However, along with the bad, I see a good side of the matter," Swaim said. "More people have become aware of our university, the only college for the deaf in the world."

Dean and AnnaLee Swaim each received a bachelor's of science degree from Gallaudet in 1953. He earned a master's degree in 1972 and she in 1974, from California State University, Northridge.

They have taught at schools for the deaf in Wisconsin, Maryland, West Virginia, Iowa and California. In the deaf community, they are well known for their teaching, coaching and administrative skills. Once, when Ruggero and I were having breakfast at Tia Sophia's Restaurant in Santa Fe, we started "conversing" with a family at the next table and found that the gentleman was the superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf.

"Of course I know Dean and AnnaLee Swaim, and they are marvelous educators," he said. "Dean has also coached football, basketball, wrestling and track."

The Swaims put heart and soul into their work, but found it more difficult to commute to their schools as cities grew and congestion took hold. And so, they retired to Markleeville. Dean is an outdoor person and a fly fisherman, while AnnaLee appreciates the scenic view from their house and working on cross-stitching. They both enjoy reading, golf, bowling, bridge and traveling. Parked in their driveway is a large motor home which they use for visits to their three adult children who live in Arizona, Washington and San Jose, Calif.

I'm thinking that the sturdy structure of their big yellow house signifies their determination to succeed in this world despite being deaf, and the three dormer windows represent their three offspring.

Why are they thinking to move from this perfect house?

"We really want to stay in Markleeville for a longer time, but our medical service provider is in Sacramento," Dean Swaim said. "We will have to think ahead and make plans for ourselves in case of immobility. Thus, we may need to live near Sacramento."

n Gina Gigli is a Markleeville resident. Reach her at


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