Josephine Swann, 97, died May 19, 2021, at Orono Commons in Orono. She was born Nov. 15, 1923, in Portland, Maine, to Edward Russell Nelson and Lula Marion Conary.
Josephine graduated from Portland High School, Class of 1941; she was known as the biggest flirt in her class. During high school she was a member of the Order for Rainbow Girls and St. Paul’s Cathedral. In high school her favorite activities were drum majorette and horse-riding club. Her first job was doing laundry and moved on to a window decorator at Porteous/Mitchell and Hay’s Drug Store. A woman of many talents, she worked in a florist shop on Munjoy Hill, and used those talents later in life to do arrangements on Swan’s Island for funerals, weddings and memorials.
On Jan. 1, 1941, someone suggested to Josephine (age 17) to take a dip off the East End Beach. She loved a challenge and repeated the dip again in 1961. During wartime, Joe volunteered in the shipyard in Portland Harbor and danced at night for the sailors at the USO. Josephine received the United Seamens service award for her volunteer work in 1945. Once married, Josephine entered the Mrs. Maine America beauty pageant in 1951 and received the third runner-up in evening gowns. Josephine worked as a waitress at DiMillo’s for short time as well as the Village Cafe for 13 years. Josephine continued with her dancing along with her daughter at the Three Arts studio in Portland, and she was a member of the Maude Mammas dance group.
At the age of 50, she went to school at Mansfield Beauty Academy in 1977, received a degree in cosmetology and opened a hair salon in her home on Swan’s. Josephine served on the school board and the Parents Interested in Kids (PIK). She organized memorial services and parades as well as shows and plays at the International Order of Odd Fellows Hall for adults and kids. She loved to tap dance, hula and was a true entertainer. She was the life of the party. Josephine had a lot of spunk and always spoke her mind. She worked as a first responder for a short time and worked the voting polls. She was a constable and enjoyed being bouncer at the dances; nobody would dare cross her. She was a member of the Methodist Ladies Aid, the Baptist Ladies Aid, which she was the president of for many years, and sang in the choir. She loved to sew, knit, crochet and do crafts, and made many homemade gifts. She was a member of the Harbor View Rebekah Lodge No. 128 at the Odd Fellows Hall on Swan’s Island. From 1988-1997, Josephine competed and won awards in many sports in the Maine Senior Games. In 1990, Josephine and her daughter joined Eastern Star together at Mount Desert Chapter No. 20 and became sisters. She is a lifetime member and a past Matron of Irene Chapter No. 97 of Ellsworth; she has served as Grand Ruth and was a Grand Representative to North Carolina and Maine. Josephine and her daughter joined the Bar Harbor Congregational Church together. Wherever she went, she would make friends, was always willing to help, sing a song or do a dance. She loved her children as they were her life and very much enjoyed her grandchildren.
Josephine is survived by her sister, Prudence Nelson, of New York; son, Russell Swann, and his wife, Donna, of Windham; daughter, Susan Sargent, and her husband, William, of Trenton; nieces, Jean Sandman and Patty Ryant; nephews, Randy Simpson, Dale Simpson, Steven Sullivan; grandchildren, Carla Swann, Russell Swann Jr., Andrew Swann, Elizabeth Levasseur, Colleen Cummings and Natalie Sargent; great-grandchildren, Danny Burns Jr., Michael Burns, Cameron Maroux; great-great grandchild, Ella McVane; daughter-in-law, Carole Swann and her sons, Sean and Cody O’Connor. Josephine was predeceased by her sons Steven Oliver Swann and Terry Joe Swann.
A service of remembrance will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 1, 2021, at Swan’s Island Baptist Church with an Eastern Star service and graveside to follow at Rose Hill Cemetery. Gifts in Josephine’s memory to Irene Chapter No. 97 O.E.S P.O. Box 389 Ellsworth, ME 04605; Attn: Jeri A. Holt or Shrine Crippled Children’s Hospital, 516 Carew St., Springfield, MA 01104 or Bar Harbor Congregational Church, 29 Mt. Desert St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609.
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mount Desert. Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.