Man Feeds Hundreds Of Swans As A Promise To Late Wife

When the love of your life asks you to grant her a last wish, you do it immediately. Jim Lawrence kept his promise to his beloved wife, who died eight months after being diagnosed with cancer. Her name was Sheila Lawrence, and together with her husband they have singlehandedly saved a threatened species of swans.

This story will break your heart, but you must get to know these real-life heroes!

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#20. One Last Promise

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Sheila Lawrence was always one of the most beloved people of the town of Monticello, Virginia. But in 2011, she sadly passed away after battling against cancer for several years. But before her death, she asked her husband, Jim, if he could keep a promise. Sheila’s last words will break your heart.

#19. Her Last Words

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Sheila had always been an animal lover. She lived in a house by the banks of the Mississippi River, and each time she saw a swan or some other bird in the water, she would go and feed them. According to Jim, his late wife’s last words were: “Will you feed my swans?” Jim agreed without doubting it for a second, and he has been loyal to his word ever since.

#18. A Loyal Husband

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Seven years later, Jim still keeps his promise. Right across his backyard lies a magical landscape that reminds him of his dear departed wife. So every winter morning, he walks across his backyard towards the riverbanks to feed thousands of trumpeter swans. When people ask him why he still does this, Jim simple answers: “Because she worried so much about them“.

#17. True To His Promise

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So each winter, Jim takes care of the swans as he tells stories about his wife – which used to be known as the “Swan Lady” – to those willing to listen. But let’s learn more about the Swan Lady and how it all began, starting with how these two lovebirds met!

#16. Early Years

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When she finished high school, Sheila began working in a few manufacturing plants and then she joined Medtronic in Fridley as an assembler. This is the place where she met Jim, and after dating for nearly a year, they got married in 1980. Four years later, they built their house in Monticello, Virginia, right by the riverbanks.

#15. A Safe Haven

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They were lucky because, in wintertime, the water discharge from a power plant would keep the river open. Because of this, wild birds frequently came over during the winter. Sheila first fed the ducks and geese, when four years later, during the winter of 1988, a pair of swans arrived.

#14. A New Hobby

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Sheila vividly remembers that very first day in which she fed not more than a dozen swans. But as the weeks and months went by, more and more swans began to gather near her backyard, and feeding them became Sheila’s daily hobby. But one year later, in the winter of 1989, something amazing happened.

#13. A Fortune Worth Of Food

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During the following winter, Sheila was surprised to see that nearly 1.500 swans appeared in the river, right next to her backyard! Ever since then she fed them on a daily basis, which cost the couple nearly $20.000 per year. How crazy is that?

#12. Winter Is Coming

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From that year onwards, whenever winter came close, usually in November, the swans started heading to the Swan Park right by Jim and Sheila’s house. As soon as the first swans showed up, Sheila would go to the market to buy dozens of kilos of grains, so that she had enough food for the whole season.

#11. The Swan Lady

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As you can imagine, word started to spread that there was a woman in Monticello who fed hundreds – and sometimes even thousands – of swans each day. As Jim once said, “maybe she was the bird whisperer!”. And this is how Sheila came to be known as the “Swan Lady”. Even the mail they received was sent to “Swan Lady”! In fact, people didn’t even need to write down their address when sending them mail, since there was only one Swan Lady in all Monticello!

#10. Hours Of Work

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It usually took Sheila hours to move the buckets of corn from her house to the place where the swans used to rest. Year after year, Sheila and Jim fed the birds without seeking much attention. But their efforts would soon be noticed

#9. Tourists Were Captivated

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The number of swans that migrated to the city was so huge that local authorities turned the free lot next to Sheila and Jim’s house into a Park, and named it Swan Park. The Chamber of Commerce also published a brochure regarding the history of Monticello and its flora and fauna.

#8. Putting Monticello On The Map

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Sandy Suchy, the director of the Monticello Chamber of Commerce & Industry, stated that Sheila Lawrence’s selfless act has “put us on the map“. Surprisingly, the Swan Lady became the talk of the town all across the Southern states, and photographers and tourists started heading to the city just to watch the flock of birds as they gathered near Sheila and Jim’s backyard.

But how did Jim manage to feed the birds all by himself once Sheila passed away?

#7. It Only Takes An Hour

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Jim would often help Sheila feed the birds, but after she passed away, he had to do it all by himself. Even though feeding so many birds sounds super time-consuming, Jim got the work done in less than an hour. Sheila, however, used to spend her whole day with them. Jim even recalls some of the conversations she would have with his wife about this…

#6. What Sheila Would Say…

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Each time Jim helped Sheila feed the swans, she would complain he did it too fast. “You’re still walking too fast when you feed’’, she used to tell him. He would often reply: “I know Sheila, but I’m just trying to feed. You wanted to talk to every one of them!”. But hey, let’s give the man some credit, even if he feeds them in only an hour, he still puts a lot of effort into it!

#5. Swan Lady Man

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Funnily enough, Jim now gets mail under the address of the ‘Swan Lady Man’, and he’s fine with it because he wants to make sure that his wife’s legacy continues. And every winter morning he keeps his promise: “My passion is to make sure her legacy continues“, he said. And for that, he needed funds, so he created a non-profit organization for that purpose.

#4. Donations In A Drop Box

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Jim also gets donations at the viewing platform in Monticello’s Swan Park. With that money, he gets to buy part of the corn he needs every week. Believe it or not, he buys 200 bushels on a weekly basis! Boy, is that a lot!

#3. Spreading The Word

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I want people to know about the Swan Lady, and what the Swan Lady did“, said Jim. For that reason, he loves spreading the word and telling the tourists about all the hard work and dedication that his late wife would put just for the swans’ sake.

#2. An Amazing Soul

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Sheila has been an inspiration to everyone and fortunately, her memory is preserved by Jim Lawrence. Here is a phrase that she once said, and that Jim always treasures: “The Trumpeter Swan is an extraordinary bird. They have been part of the human experience since the beginning of time“.

#1. True Love

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All in all, Jim and Sheila spent 23 years together feeding the swans and they had a wonderful time doing so. Now Jim honors every second of it and he keeps his promise. If this isn’t true love, then what is?

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    Jessica Aguero

    Jessica Aguero is a content marketing professional at, a lifestyle and pop culture community that helps people stay in touch with trends. Previously, Jessica wrote content for several magazines and websites. She graduated with honors from Columbia University with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.

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