We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Blanchard Family Funeral Home
Ann Wilson Swift
May 30, 1933 – April 23, 2022
Ann Wilson Swift was born on May 30th, 1933 in New York City to Margret Ledig Wilson and Joseph Orin Wilson. Her family moved briefly to Baltimore Maryland, where her younger brother, Peter, was born before settling in her hometown of Madison Wisconsin. Growing up there, Ann attended public schools, excelling as a student, particularly in reading and writing. She and a close friend read every novel in their elementary school library. One of Ann’s well-loved activities growing up was girl scouting, particularly the Mariners Girl Scout Troop that she belonged to in High School. In land-locked Wisconsin, the Mariner Girl Scouts did a lot of canoeing on lakes and rivers. Ann put those skills to use as a camp counselor as well.
At West High School in Madison, she was the features editor of the school newspaper and many expected her to study English or Journalism in college, but Ann chose a different path, enrolling at the University of Wisconsin as a nursing student. She did not give up on her passion for writing, however; she was chairman of the News Bureau at the University. She made good friends among the nursing students and, after receiving their nursing certificates in January of 1956, she and two of those friends moved to Denver Colorado to work as nurses. After a year or so of work at the Denver Children’s Hospital, Ann returned to school at the University of Colorado in Boulder, changing course to earn a degree in journalism rather than nursing. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in June of 1958. She often said in later years that her path through life and work was not a straight line but a zig-zag as she pursued different interests, but that she was glad she’d had an interesting journey.
After graduating, Ann moved to the Boston area, where she worked as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital before getting a job at the Beacon Press and then at the Unitarian-Universalist Register. It was during that time that she joined a singles group at the Arlington Street Unitarian Church where she met her future husband, Daniel W. Swift. They enjoyed doing many things together, particularly pursuing their shared love of outdoor activities. They were married on April 29th, 1961, and settled in their own home in Boxford, MA where their first daughter, Elisabeth, was born in 1962.
It was partly the lure of open spaces and the outdoors that made Ann and Dan consider moving to Alaska. In May of 1963 the couple drove north with one-year old Elisabeth. While raising her, Ann found work as an editor at the Arctic Aeromed Lab on Fort Wainwright, leaving that position in 1965 when a second daughter, Sarah, was born. Margret followed soon after in 1967. Ann and Dan shared their love of outdoor activities with their daughters, taking them riverboating, camping, hiking, canoeing, skiing and even on a few hunting trips.
While raising her family of girls and making them feel that they were always the center of her life, Ann pursued her other true passion, serving her community. Over the years, she put her writing skills to use by editing newsletters for the American Association of University Women at UAF, the Tanana Valley League of Women Voters, the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Fairbanks, the Alaska Conservation Society, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the Hospice of the Tanana Valley and Raven Landing. She kept her kids busy by having them help with folding, stapling and addressing all those newsletters.
When her daughters were young, Ann was especially involved in the Tanana Valley League of Women Voters, known in the family as simply “the League”. She was a founding member of this organization, which works to improve elections and educate voters. She worked hard for our democracy, trying to give everyone the information they needed to make their voices heard, often moderating candidate forums to help voters make educated choices. She served as a board member of the Tanana Valley League for many years as well as being the Vice-President of the Alaska League. Her commitment to free and fair elections also led her to volunteer as a poll worker for many years, eventually serving as precinct chairperson, a job she really enjoyed because she loved seeing her friends, family and neighbors as they came to vote. In later years, she’d often hold a grandchild or two on her lap while their mother voted in the same precinct. Remembering the role of Girl Scouting in her own life, Ann served as a troop leader for some of her daughter’s troops. As her daughters got older, she worked on publications for The University of Alaska Rural Student Services as well as doing some free-lance editing work.
In 1977, when her youngest daughter was ten years old, Ann completed a Nursing Refresher Course at the University of Alaska. From that time on, she held a variety of nursing, patient education and home health positions until her retirement in 1994. She worked at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Williamsburg Community Hospital in Virginia, Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center, and the State of Alaska Home Health Care.
Returning to work and raising active teenagers did not slow down Ann’s volunteer activities or her impact on the community. She served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Transit Commission during the years when our MACS public transit system was established. She was a board member of the Fairbanks Chapter of the American Diabetes Association and ADA Alaska. She was a member of the Borough Recycling Commission and was the person who suggested the creation of the recycle platforms that Fairbanksans love so much. She helped found the Hospice of the Tanana Valley and served on the board of that organization as well as coordinating and training volunteers. She served on the board of the Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation and was involved in the creation of Denali Center and Raven Landing Retirement Community.
After retirement, she continued some of these activities and was also an active volunteer at the Georgeson Botanical Garden and the Fairbanks Community Food Bank. A master gardener, she shared her love of plants and growing things with her community and for many years was involved in the Hospice Plant Sale. She also spent time with her grandchildren on a regular basis, caring for them in her home and taking them to community events and the public library. She and Dan also traveled extensively during their later years, both inside Alaska and beyond, going as far afield as Antarctica and taking some of their grandchildren with them to a Kotzebue fish camp and the Galápagos Islands.
A self-described “people person”, Ann loved her community and the people in it. She seemed to know everyone in town, their stories, and how they were connected to everyone else. She was dedicated to making Fairbanks a better place to live, and in fact it is hard to imagine what Fairbanks would be like today without her many contributions. She also appreciated all that the community had to offer, being a frequent patron at local theater and music performances, attending Chena Ridge Friends Meeting, and participating in and volunteering at local fun runs and other community events. She loved swimming and was a regular at local pools, and also took part in Tai Chi and Strong Women. She enjoyed walking in her neighborhood until the last year of her life. As her grandchildren were growing up, she attended almost all of their concerts, dance performances, and sporting events.
Toward the end of her life, Ann saw some of her service to the community come full circle. After being involved in establishing Raven Landing, she and Dan took up residence there in 2016. When she was hospitalized at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, some of the nurses, now nearing the end of their careers, remembered working with her when their careers began. She spent a few weeks at Denali Center where a plaque recognizes her contributions to the establishment of that building. Foundation Health Hospice, a descendant of the Hospice she helped found, eased her final days.
Ann is survived by her husband of 61 years, Daniel W. Swift, by her daughters Elisabeth Swift (Dennis Olson), Sarah (Steve) Masterman and Margret (Carl) Heidel, by her grandchildren, Everett and Kate Masterman and Ruth and Xel Heidel and by her brother, Peter Wilson, of Arizona. She is also survived by the many close friends she made throughout her years. One of Ann’s lifelong friends said, “Everyone should be so lucky to have an Ann in their life”. We couldn’t agree more.
The family wishes to thank Nikki Masson and the staff at Rocking Years Two for the amazing care they provided to Ann the last few weeks of her life, and Dr. Corrine Leistikow for always being available to us.
In lieu of flowers, the family wishes contributions to be made to Tanana Valley League of Women Voters, Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Georgeson Botanical Gardens, or the Raven Landing Senior Community.
We will Celebrate Ann’s Life at Raven Landing, 1222 Cowles St., on June 24th at 4 PM.