At the start of the pandemic, Martha Hallisey-Swift got really into bluebirds. Her family built wooden birdhouses in the fields behind their home in Brunswick and made sure to buy the right mealworms for their visitors.

Bluebirds can stay in Maine all year, so they are in the backyard even on these cold January days, even though she is not.

Martha Hallisey-Swift

Hallisey-Swift died Jan. 13, less than a year after she was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer. She was 53.

“She was a very positive person about everything,” said her husband, Dan Swift. “She was usually the source of strength and support for people.”

That attitude extended to her career. Hallisey-Swift worked in the Child Protection Division of the Maine Attorney General’s Office. Her husband said she wanted to bring stability and safety to children, and she never seemed overwhelmed by the difficult cases she handled. Many of the messages he has received from her friends and colleagues have mentioned her constant smile.

“She really could have done anything,” Swift said. “She was very bright, had a ton of energy. She could have easily went and worked for a big firm someplace and made more money, but she was really called to public service.”

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In an email to his staff, Attorney General Aaron Frey described the assistant attorney general as “a true public servant.”

“AAG Hallisey-Swift was a beloved member of the Child Protection Division, a very talented and valued attorney for the State of Maine, and a highly respected member of the bar,” Frey wrote. “She served this office and the people of Maine for many years.”

Hallisey-Swift grew up in Massachusetts and met her husband while they were both at New England Law in Boston – “in the library,” he said with a laugh. They married in 1994 and lived in the city for a few years. Swift said they often visited Maine to hike or camp, and she loved to run and be outside. They decided to move here when they started thinking about having kids. All her grandparents were from Ireland, so they chose Gaelic names for their two children – Maeve and Eamon.

Swift said his wife was extremely close to her family, and they spent many treasured summer days together on Cape Cod. They would go for walks on the beach, spend time with siblings and cousins and cook food on the grill.

“She was extremely proud of her two children, who were the great love of her life,” her obituary says.

Her diagnosis in May was followed quickly by surgery and intense treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Swift said he was able to be by his wife’s side during her visits to the institute despite the pandemic, and he was grateful to her providers there.

“Her biggest dream, she just said when she realized that this was it, she did not want to be in a hospital,” he said. “She wanted to be home with her kids.” And she was.

Her family is planning a funeral Mass on Friday at St. John’s Church in Brunswick, and she will be buried later in Massachusetts near family members. While they were still working out the details this week, Eamon spotted a bluebird in the backyard, his father said, and they knew at least one thing they could do.

“Keep making sure we feed the birds,” Swift said.


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