Friends of Nancy Swift: ‘I Think She Lived to Nurse’

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Nancy Turnage Swift died in Wednesday's shooting at UAB Highlands Hospital.
Nancy Turnage Swift died in Wednesday's shooting at UAB Highlands Hospital.

Friends remember Nancy Turnage Swift, the nursing supervisor who was killed by a gunman at UAB Highlands Hospital Wednesday, as outgoing and caring. After shooting another person at the hospital Wednesday, the shooter died of self-inflicted wounds. A third wounded victim is in stable condition.

Cindy Heron spent a weekend with Swift and her husband last July at Swift’s husband’s high school reunion. “She was a very dear person,” Heron said of Swift.

Heron describes Swift as a nurse who cared for people. “She was outgoing. She always had a ready laugh, a smile on her face,” Heron said.

Nursing, Heron said, was a calling for Swift. “It wasn’t just a job,” she said. “I think she lived to nurse.”

Swift brought light into a room, Heron said. “She walked into a room, the place was a happier place. She talked to you for five minutes you felt like you were worth something.”

Swift and her husband Tony Swift were members of a large Baptist church, though it’s unclear which one. Heron said she lived her faith well.

Here’s what else we’ve been able to piece together about Swift. She was a longtime nursing supervisor from Hatley, Mississippi. Her daughter, Angie Turnage Mitchell, posted online that her mother was killed at work and asked that people keep her and her family in their prayers as they begin to make arrangements.

In January 2016, Swift shared an article talked about then-President Obama and his calls for the country to tackle gun violence more urgently. Obama in a speech invoked mass shootings over the last 20 years, and he outlined executive actions to tighten gun restrictions.

At the Pita Stop, a Mediterranean restaurant on Southside, people had similar stories. Swift ate there several times a week. Matt Islam waited on her often. “She used to eat ribeye steak. That’s what she had years and years. Sometimes she        would switch it up, but usually ribeye steak,” Islam said.

Swift was more like family than a customer for Islam. He was waiting for her to contact him Wednesday evening with a recommendation of someone to do work in his yard. She never called.

“Sometimes I used to have bad days. She could look at me and say, ‘Whatever you are going through, it’s going to be alright.'”

Islam says it’s been difficult since her learned of Swift’s death. He still remembers their final moments on Wednesday. She walked across the street from the hospital to the Pita Stop with a friend for her regular lunch.

The picture keeps popping up,” he said. “She gave me hug, then she left. It was the last time I would ever see her. It’s hard.”

 The shooter has been identified as Trevis Coleman. Police say he shot himself in the hospital. Another victim, 28-year-old Tim Isley, was wounded and is still recovering.

 

 

 

 

 

Gigi Douban

Gigi Douban

News Director