Swan’s Island resident Nancy Carter “was born during the war, [in] ’44. I was born in Knox County Hospital in Rockland,” where her mother, Beverly Simmons, was living with her parents while Nancy’s father, Byron, was serving as an Army sergeant in the Philippines.
Byron returned safely from the war, and the family moved to Swan’s Island (from which Nancy’s parents hailed) in the late 1940s. A lobster fisherman, Byron “was killed in November of 1952, hunting deer,” Nancy quietly said. “That was a horrific thing to live through, at 8½ years old.”
Nancy later lived in Rockland and Southwest Harbor with her mother (who remarried) and siblings before the family returned to Swan’s Island. “I was number 3” of five children, with “an older sister and brother,” Nancy said. “Four years younger than me is a brother, four years younger than him a sister.”
Nancy graduated from eighth grade in the former school now housing the town offices and post office. “We had just two classrooms here,” she recalled. “The classrooms were packed. I was terrified of going to Pemetic High School [in Southwest Harbor] because it was so big.”
Nancy married “a native boy,” and because “there was no work here, we went to Nashua, New Hampshire. He worked as a carpenter’s helper, and I worked as a waitress.” The family also lived in Connecticut, then returned to Swan’s Island in 1967 so her husband could go fishing.
Purchasing “the house … my grandparents built in the ’20s,” Nancy and her husband raised their son, Oakley, and daughter, Gerri Lynn, on Swan’s Island. Nancy has now lived in the house for 50 years.
Her children “told me their childhood here was like a fantasy,” she said. “They could roam,” and “no one would harm them.
“I worked my tail off to give them a stable home life,” Nancy said. She became the bookkeeper for the Swan’s Island Electric Co-Op, “owned a store for 17 years,” and worked 10 years for the Maine State Ferry Service on Swan’s Island before retiring at age 70.
Island living is not for everyone, Nancy observed. The slower pace of life and strong sense of community are important to Swan’s Island residents, and “for the most part, we don’t lock our doors here,” but schoolchildren travel off island to attend high school, and the Maine State Ferry Service is the only regular connection to Bass Harbor.
“You’ve got to be very disciplined to do what we do, the travel back and forth” off Swan’s Island, Nancy said.
Her son, Oakley, tragically died of a heart attack some years ago while “he was in Washington state, fishing,” she said. Gerri Lynn, “a beautiful young woman I call her, though she’s 56 years old,” went to Bates College in Lewiston, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and now lives with her husband in central Massachusetts, where she works at a Springfield hospital.
“Only the second woman to be elected” to the Swan’s Island Select Board, Nancy served on the board for six years.
“I’m a great gardener,” she said. “I grow my own vegetables and flowers. I mow my own lawn. I love to be outdoors.”
A member of the Swan’s Island Historical Society, Nancy is the treasurer of the Swan’s Island Baptist Church and sits on the board of the Swan’s Island Educational Society. “Most everything here is run by volunteerism,” she said. “If people don’t take part, it affects what we can do.
“I would love to travel,” Nancy said. “I would love to go to Ireland or Australia.”