John Swanson

RAYMOND – John Swanson passed away peacefully on Feb. 9, 2020 from heart failure at the age of 88.

John was born on Oct. 19, 1931 at home in Walpole, Mass. After graduating from Walpole High in 1949, he attended Boston University for two years. In 1953, he enlisted in the U.S. Army serving for three years completing his service as a guard at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was honorably discharged in 1956.

After his discharge, he graduated from Bangor Theological Seminary with a Master’s of Divinity Degree and a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Maine at Farmington in 1961. He was ordained into the United Church of Christ in 1962.

John married his wife of 59 years, Mary Jane on June 25, 1960. Shortly thereafter he began his active ministry serving the Mexico Congregational Church, the three churches Presumpscot Union Parish in the Windham area, and finally the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Bridgton, and South Bridgton Congregational Church. While serving the Bridgton parishes, he gathered area clergy together meeting regularly. A number of ecumenical services were planned throughout the years. First Congregational Church hosted the community Christmas Eve candlelight services with area clergy participating. The Swanson’s served First Church in Bridgton for 26 years retiring in 1996. John and Mary Jane moved to Raymond into a home renovated by their son Stephen.

Throughout John’s professional career he served the Maine Conference. He was moderator of the Cumberland Association of Churches and Oxford-Union Association, chairman of the Division of Ministry, and held leadership roles for Rockcraft Lodge. He led program development for Pilgrim Lodge and later was a camp dean and counselor for the UCC summer youth camp. John and Mary Jane deaned the first family camp at Pilgrim Lodge. Pilgrim Lodge provided a place in which John appreciated the simple focus on faith, living together as a community and building trust and relationships on the beautiful wooded shores of Lake Cobbosseecontee.

John and Mary Jane were leaders in the UCC Marriage Encounter program making pastoral presentations in support of marriages. They served as the National Pastoral Couple for the UCC attending ecumenical gatherings with other denomination’s representatives.

John was appointed as Chaplain in the Maine Army National Guard in 1964 serving for over twenty years. He enjoyed spending time with other service members and participating in military life. He supported soldiers and their families honoring their beliefs and ministering to them in times of need, particularly during the Vietnam War. He retired as State Chaplain and with the rank of Colonel in 1991. John received the Army Commendation Medal and the Legion of Merit awards during his service time.

John was active in community life, serving as the local Red Cross and Salvation Army representative and training hospice volunteers in the greater Bridgton-Fryeburg areas. He initiated and was an active participant in the chaplaincy program at Northern Cumberland Memorial Hospital (now the Bridgton Hospital), assisted the Bridgton Police Department and provided counseling to the community.

Throughout his life, John enjoyed sports of all kinds; particular favorites were ice hockey and baseball. He played sports growing up, in high school, in the military and in all the communities he lived in. After becoming a father, he coached local youth hockey and softball. John enjoyed golfing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and was a dedicated jogger. He was often seen jogging up Dodge Hill (backwards) on the way to his usual 4 mile run.

He also loved to hike, and believed the experience of hiking a mountain could help during difficult times and build self-esteem. John led many hikes with his family, community members, youth group and church members in the White Mountains and greater Lakes Region. He made countless trips up Pleasant Mountain, especially during blueberry season. Hiking Pleasant Mountain was a chance to be alone with nature, renew his spirit and feed his soul.

John was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He was an avid fan of all of the activities of his children and grandchildren attending most all games, performances and other events. He was especially proud of his children’s achievements through higher education and looked forward to his grandchildren’s endeavors.

John is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mary Jane, his siblings Bill Swanson and Barbara and Jason Washer, brother-in-law Bert Ellis; many nieces and nephews; his children Leslie Swanson and companion Mark Johnson, Stephen Swanson, Karla Swanson-Murphy and Kevin Murphy, Shelley and Aaron Norton; and grandchildren Mindy, Fiona and Colin Murphy.

A memorial service will be held at the First Congregational Church in Bridgton on May 3, at 2 p.m.

To express condolences and to participate in John’s online tribute, please visit

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:

First Congregational Church

33 South High St.

Bridgton, ME 04009