The late Lee Swam was known for planting thousands of daffodils and creating other traditions in Atascadero

ATASCADERO — Lee Swam (aka the Daffodil Man) was beloved not only in the city of Atascadero but all over the North County. From planting thousands of daffodils throughout Atascadero to creating traditions that we still experience today, Swam left amazing memories in his wake.

“He was quite a character, and he really did a lot of good things for the City of Atascadero,” said Swam’s friend and fellow Rotary Club member, Mike Lucas.

Swam created a campaign in 2013 to plant a daffodil for each resident in the city. As a result, thousands of daffodils can be seen sprouting up around town every spring.

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“He started making contact with various nurseries around the area to see if they could buy the King Alfreds [daffodils] in bulk,” Lucas said. “His concept was that he would purchase them and then try to sell them to other people, and whatever proceeds would come from that, that he would use that money to buy more daffodils.”

In addition to planting daffodils like these around Atascadero, Lee Swam also started Tuesdays in the Park at Atascadero Lake Park. Photo by Christianna Marks

Lucas added that Swam purchased thousands of King Alfred daffodils a year, and he himself helped Swam plant more than a couple thousand.

Atascadero Rotary Club member and Swam’s friend, Donald Price said, “my wife and I, we have daffodils all in our backyard. We got [them] from Lee Swam’s promotion.”

Swam was an active member of the Rotary Club in Atascadero for more than 30 years and was known for “Swaming” other members.

“When a new member joined [Atascadero Rotary], he [Swam] would always find out some stuff about you,” said Tom Zirk. “What was your career? You know, your trade, your field. Because he liked to go to thrift shops and garage sales, he always had a lot of stuff that he had collected over the years. And he would go through the things that he had, and he’d find something that was appropriate.”

Upon his passing in April 2021, Swam left the Atascadero Rotary Club a six-figure endowment to it scholarship program for Atascadero and Morro Bay high school students, and to buy school supplies for Creston Elementary.

Swam also got Tuesdays in the Park started at Atascadero Lake Park in the 1990s. He owned a bed and breakfast on the lake and decided that Atascadero needed live music.

“One thing I want to express about Lee, if you’re familiar with Tuesdays in the Park, he started it. He was the man responsible for this,” said Rotary Club member Garry Brill. “One day he came to the idea, he said why can’t we have music in the park, and combine it with a barbecue. So that’s what he did.

“There was not another Tuesday evening or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday evening established. This was the first one in the area. And all compliments of Lee Swam.”

On top of being a part of the Rotary Club, Swam was also a volunteer at the Charles Paddock Zoo, the Estrella Warbirds Museum in Paso Robles, and the Museum of Natural History in Morro Bay.

“Lee was quite an energetic person and [loved] finding out a lot about each person that he made contact with. That was amazing,” concluded Price.

Featured Photo: Lee Swam, who passed away in April 2021, never missed a chance to promote his daffodil project in Atascadero. Contributed photo