Gwendolyn Marie Swank, 96, passed away on Tuesday, April 25, at Cove’s Edge Nursing Home in Damariscotta. Gwen was born on Oct. 17, 1926 to George and Flossie (Bisel) Rogers in Shelby, Ohio. She was one of four children, sisters, Dorothea and Evelyn, and brother, George Jr.
Gwen attended Flora Stone Mather College in Cleveland, Ohio after high school, but left before completing her studies to help her father with his business during the Depression years. She remained a lifelong learner, with books always by her side, and ready for a well-informed discussion on many topics.
Gwen’s father made a living selling agricultural equipment to local farmers. Gwen helped keep the books for him, and learned how to drive the trucks and other equipment. When it came time to get a driver’s license, she had to relearn how to drive to be able to drive a car. She was approached by a local hospital to be their bookkeeper, beginning a long career keeping the books for a wide variety of businesses: health care, law offices, and tax preparation. Gwen didn’t retire from this work until she was 88.
Gwen married Scott Olus Swank, and gave birth to her daughter, Denise, while still in Ohio. When Denise graduated from high school, the family decided to move to Maine, having vacationed there, and at the recommendation of Scott’s old Navy friend. She never looked back, remaining in Pemaquid the remainder of her life.
When her marriage ended, Gwen moved from Old Harrington Road to the Pemaquid Villas Park, in South Bristol. There she became the first president of the park council when the park became a co-op. Her home soon was surrounded by a garden in the woods.
Gwen was a lifelong member of Eastern Star, starting as a rainbow girl in her early teens, joining the organization as an adult in Ohio. Gwen became active in the local Maine group, holding different offices within the organization. She was a charter member of Water of Life Lutheran Church in Newcastle, beginning with the first group of worshippers before the present location was established.
Gwen became interested in first aid to help manage issues related to her daughter’s struggle with diabetes. In typical fashion, she not only learned both first aid and advanced first aid techniques, but also became an instructor in both.
Her friends and family knew Gwen as a master at crafts. She was skilled at sewing, knitting, and making baskets. Gwen shared her talents, leading crafts as a volunteer at The Lincoln Home throughout the 1980s. Always busy, over the years she knitted many prayer shawls and baby caps, at least 100, for the hospital. Gwen finished her last shawl in the week before her passing. When driving to visit relatives in Ohio, Gwen stopped along the way to take lessons in basket weaving and became a producer and collector of beautiful baskets.
Gwen was the last survivor of her original family. She was predeceased by her parents, and her siblings. Sadly, she lost her married daughter, Denise Fossett, when Denise was in her 30s.
Gwen is survived by nieces and nephews who remain in Ohio. From Evelyn’s family, Deborah Stuart, Sandy Lindsay, and John Stuart (whose brother, Jeff, is deceased); from Dorothea’s family, Mark and Mike Corbin, and from George Jr.’s family, Beth, Greg, Ryan, and Julie. Gwen was well known and well loved by her friends in the area and her church family from Water of Life who all miss her greatly.
Gwen’s friends would especially like to thank the staff at Cove’s Edge Nursing Home, and her caretakers from Beacon Hospice who took such exceptional care of her during her last year.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday, May 20, at 2 p.m. at the Water of Life Lutheran Church on Route 1 in Newcastle.