Obituary of Nicholas Swann

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Nicholas Swann, a Yankee eccentric, celebrated herb horticulturist, musician, dancer, blue water sailor, devoted father, versatile athlete, woodsman, animal lover & life long pacifist, died peacefully at his home, surrounded by his family, on Cherry Hill in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on November 8, 2018.

Son of John Butler Swann and Mary Potter Swann, Nicholas was born in 1950, and raised on Cherry Hill Farm. Nick’s godmother, Sally Begley, said of him that even as a child he would want to assist others, saying “let me help.” Nick remembered fondly baling hay with his older brothers and being “in awe of it all.”

Nick attended Berkshire Country Day School and Northwood in Lake Placid and graduated from Monument Mountain Regional High School. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Goddard College in Vermont in 1972 with a thesis on “The Bees’ Knees.”

At Northwood Nick fell in love with music as he learned to play the mandolin. He and a group of his friends started “The Free Band.” They toured the country and recorded an album. Nick’s love for music evolved as he taught himself to play guitar, which remained a passion up until the end of his life.

Upon graduating from college, Nick set sail with his friend, Foster Reed, from Camden, Maine across the North Atlantic to the Azores, then on to the coast of Ireland. The journey was rough at times. They survived a blistering snow storm in the middle of June and Nick received third degree burns while cooking pasta. It was the adventure of a lifetime.

Nick met Alexandra Radkai in 1978 at a poetry reading in Glendale, MA. They continued to explore poetry together learning from the greats, like Michael Gizzi, Louise Gluck, Gilbert Sorrentino, and married in 1986. They have one son, Lucas Sebastian Swann. They divorced and remained close friends.

In 1990, Nick met Maria Whaley-Wool. They have one daughter, Kalina Mari Swann.

A steward of the land and his community, Nick loved to work with his hands. He was enamored by the beauty of Cherry Hill and was captivated by it. His skills were many, from harvesting and milling wood, maintaining roads and roofs, designing and fixing interiors, cultivating his garden and cleaning chimneys, to challenging the energy crisis with warmth created by the heat of wood stoves. Joined by his friends and family, Nick took care of the many acres and structures that made up Cherry Hill Farm.

Nick was happiest when outside. A versatile and imaginative athlete, Nick could be holding a baby and smoking a cigarette on the tennis court and still return the tricky shot. As well as tennis, Nick played soccer, skated across frozen marshes, gracefully raced slalom, rollerbladed throughout the county, and from site to site in Washington DC in the company of his son.

He loved cross country skiing on the trails he’d made through the swamp and around parts of Monument Mountain – he would ski from his front porch to the wetlands and along the base of the Mountain to frozen Agawam pond, opening his jacket to make a sail so that the wind would blow him along.

In the last six years of his life Nick began figure drawing, and he leaves behind an archive that reveals his appreciation of the human body and increasing mastery of the art.

With his soft manners and distinctive personal style, Nick went out of his way to help others, keeping their hearts and homes warm. Up until the end, Nick remained as sweet as the maple syrup he made in the wooden sap house he built on Cherry Hill.

He is predeceased by his brothers, Mark and Robert Swann, and survived by his sisters, Clover Swann of Stockbridge and New York, and Rosaly Bass of Peterborough, NH; his children, Lucas Swann of Stockbridge, and Kalina Swann of Schenectady, NY; his stepchildren, Melany Dobson and Freya Dobson, of Hudson, NY, who he raised as if they were his own; as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and beloved friends.

A Memorial to Nick will be held on January 19th, 2019 at 4:00 o’clock, at the Mount in Lenox. Flowers and warm wishes are always appreciated. For Messages to the family, please contact Birches-Roy Funeral Services at

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