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Leonard Swift

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Leonard Swift Obituary
Leonard "Gus" Fordyce Swift

1916 - 2015 SHELBURNE, VT Leonard "Gus" Fordyce Swift, educator, historian, mentor, eternal learner, and kind, generous, witty man, died February 17, at the University of Vermont Medical Center after a brief illness. He was one month short of his 99th birthday. He had been a resident of Wake Robin in Shelburne, Vermont since 2005. Leonard was born on March 12, 1916 in Hinsdale, Berkshire County, Mass., son of the Rev. Samuel Ross Swift, a Congregational minister, and Grace Leonard Swift. Growing up as a pastor's son in that small town shaped Leonard's character and the arc of his life. As a native and longtime summer resident of Hinsdale, he served as the town's honorary historian, researching local history, collecting historical materials, writing historical sketches, corresponding with genealogy seekers, and editing "The Heritage of Hinsdale: An Anthology," published in 2005 for the town's Bicentennial. Leonard's last solo driving trip, at age 98, was to Hinsdale to attend the Eagle Scout ceremony for a member of the troop that his father had founded in 1913. After attending Maple Street and Center Schools in Hinsdale, Leonard graduated from Dalton High School, Dalton, Mass., in 1933. With tuition paid by his uncle, Leonard attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, graduating as a history major in 1937. In 1939 he received a master's degree in American Studies from Harvard. Lacking funds to continue graduate education, he accepted a summer position as trumpeter and waiter at Twitchell Lake Inn in the Adirondacks. The inn's owners then invited him to work that winter as waiter at their famed Garden Seat restaurant in Clearwater, Florida. There he met a co-worker, Mary Jo Holland, his future wife. In 1940, Leonard returned north, accepting a social studies teaching position at Williston Academy Junior School in East-hampton, Mass. Military service looming, he joined the Army Air Force in the summer of 1942, serving as an instrument-fying instructor at MacDill Field in Tampa, Fla. until 1945. He and Mary Jo Holland were married in Fort Myers, Fla. in 1943. Following World War II, Leonard taught history and economics at St. Petersburg Junior College, St. Petersburg, Fla., and history and core studies at the P. K. Yonge Laboratory School, affiliated with the University of Florida's School of Education in Gainesville, Fla. With financial help from the G.I. Bill, Leonard returned to school and earned a doctorate in the foundations of education at the University of Illinois in 1959. As a research associate at the University's College of Education he developed experimental instructional materials for teaching critical thinking in secondary school social studies. From 1957 to 1963, he was a professor of educational theory at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, and from 1963 to 1984 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. He retired as Professor Emeritus of Education following interim service as Associate Dean of Hofstra's School of Education. Following retirement, he and Mary moved to Weybridge, Vt. to be close to their daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters. There, Leonard became a founding member of Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Middlebury. After Mary died, Leonard enjoyed a number of RV traveling years with Dalton High School friend Zilpha 'Sis' Thompson. Leonard leaves his daughter and son-in-law, Artley Swift Wolfson and Richard Wolfson, of Middlebury, Vt.; granddaughter Sarah A. Wolfson; grandson-in-law Gary Brouhard; and great-grandchildren, Vera and Leo of Montreal; and granddaughter, Carrie A. Wolfson of Denver. He was predeceased by his wife of forty-two years, Mary Holland Swift, in 1985; by his sister, Marion Alden Swift; and by friend and traveling companion, Zilpha M. 'Sis' Thompson. A public Circle of Remembrance will be held at Wake Robin's Community Center Meeting Room, at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 9. Directions: Route 7 to Shelburne, Vermont; then Bostwick Road; left on Wake Robin Drive; right on Colman Way; parking in front of the Community Center. Ashes will be interred at the Swift family plot, Maple Street Cemetery, Hinsdale, Mass. and scattered along a favorite woodland path at the Swifts' cabins in Hinsdale. Gifts may be made in Leonard's memory to Hinsdale Public Library, 58 Maple Street, Hinsdale, MA 01235, to Wake Robin Residents' Assistance Fund, 200 Wake Robin Drive, Shelburne, VT 05482; or to Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, 2 Duane Court, Middlebury, VT 05753.
Published in The Berkshire Eagle on Apr. 8, 2015
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