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Jonathan P Swinchatt 1936-2022

Updated: Jan 30

Jonathan P Swinchatt left us on January 22, 2022. He began his life in Singapore, born to Percival (Pat) H and Effie Irene Swinchatt on June 5, 1936. He had triple citizenship - Malaysia, Britain, United States, until he chose US citizenship at 18. He spent his formative years in Larchmont and St Catherines, Ontario, Canada where he went to Ridley College, following his older brother Peter Swinchatt. Peter checked in on him every day, making Jonathan feel safe as a little kid so far away from his parents. He skipped year 7 and 13, leaving at 17 to head to Yale where he discovered geology. He then continued on to Harvard for a PhD.


In 1958 he met Nancy Hueber at a party. They were standing by the record player, their hands touched and there was a spark of electricity. Jonathan didn’t stand a chance after that. Fortunately for their daughters, Nancy accepted his last minute invites on Fridays when other plans had not appeared. In 1959 he had decided to end his education, when a drunken "passing his Masters exams" celebration ended in a six week stay at Mass General with two broken heels and a couple of compression fractures in his spine. Fortunately for dad, mom smuggled beer into the hospital making him very popular with the staff.


Jonathan and Nancy were married in 1960 by a cousin of JFK, the only priest mom could find who would marry her to someone who had no religion and no intention of converting. In 1962 Jonathan was awarded his PhD in marine geology and he moved a very pregnant Nancy and their dog Joshie to Tulsa, OK, much to the dismay of their oldest daughter who still believes she should have been born in Boston. In Tulsa Jonathan worked for an oil company, heading out to places like Jasper, Alberta, Canada to look at rocks. When it was time for him to head into an oil field, he took a job at Colgate University, with the understanding that he could take a sabbatical just six months later to accept a fellowship to study the Great Barrier Reef. After a year in Australia it was back to Colgate.


Jonathan's interests continued to expand. H he put together three multidisciplinary courses, before that was really a thing, and the powers that be reluctantly accepted one of them. Shortly after Colgate gave him tenure he quit and moved his family to San Francisco so he could study gestalt therapy. A year later he decided he had learned all he wanted to know and found the Arica Institute. Nancy agreed to join him in the training and eventually they both became instructors. When the founder, Oscar Ichazo, asked them to head to Manhattan to teach, they said, no thanks, and moved from the Bay area to Connecticut. There Jonathan became a professor of environmental studies at Southern Connecticut State College, where he taught for a number of years.


After a falling out with the head of the program, Jonathan became an apprentice carpenter, a gig that lead him to learn as much as he could and start his own company building energy efficient houses and additions. There are numerous houses around central Connecticut that are that much more beautiful after Jonathan got his hands on them, including his own home where he laid a spectacular cherry floor when he converted one of the garages to living space. In the late 80s Jonathan bought a video camera, played with it in Maine for a week, then flew off to China for two months. That whim lead to a ten year career making videos he was interested in and Collegiate Video, where he produced commencement videos for colleges around the northeast providing work for all of his immediate family and one nephew.


One of the videos Jonathan produced was about the Napa Valley, marrying his two loves - geology and wine. Eventually that lead him to propose a special project to a vineyard out there. The vineyards would dig six foot pits around their properties, Jonathan would spend a couple of weeks taking samples and pictures and then he would write the geological story of the land allowing the vintners to plant based on the geology so their various grapes would thrive. Jonathan did that until his body just wouldn’t let him. He got a case of wine from one vintner who said that his success was a direct result of Jonathan's work. Somewhere in all of that Jonathan wrote "The Winemakers Dance". Pick up a copy it is a beautiful and engaging book - even if you don’t like wine or geology.


The tale of dads life is incomplete without mention of the numerous dogs that he spent time with. There were so many and he loved them all, but his best pals were Lindsay, Finnegan, and his final four legged friend Rafferty. Jonathan loved his furry friends so very much and had such gratitude to Rafferty who happily curled up at his feet when the adventures had to stop.


Dad resisted identification as a retired person, but he handed over his last project - the story of the artist Darrel Petit’s life - to Darrel and Sean Kernan a few years ago when he no longer had the energy to achieve the level of excellence he knew the story deserved.

His final years were spent watching over his dear friend Nancy as she lived with dementia.


Jonathan will be missed by his daughters Tara and Siobhan, his grandson Nickolas of whom he was very proud, his nieces and nephews who he considered dear friends, and numerous friends. Jonathan was more than ready to leave this life, so he would tell you not to be sad, but to enjoy a good glass of wine (or whatever you might like) and have a good laugh at a silly memory. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Thompson Lake Environmental Association, PO Box 25, Oxford, ME 04270-0025.



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