A Beloved Teacher Dies at Age 60


When Eleanor Swan died on March 24, she left a big hole in the lives of students at the Bridgehampton School, sailors in Sag Harbor, and the politically active congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork.

Ms. Swan was 60 and had been battling cancer for more than a year. Her husband, Eamon Fearon, a well-known sailor in Sag Harbor’s Wednesday night race series, died in November.

Ms. Swan helped establish the English as a Second Language program at the Bridgehampton School, but before that had worked for many years in singer-songwriter Paul Simon’s copyright office.

“She had an unbelievable background as an editor at Simon & Schuster, a paralegal in a high-powered law office, but teaching became her true vocation,” said Mary Johnsen, one of her fellow teachers at the Bridgehampton School. “She said that truly this was her calling.”

Pat Smith, a speech therapy teacher at the school, said Ms. Swan’s work was guided by her lifetime devotion to fairness. “She was a real advocate for the non-English-speaking population,” said Ms. Smith, adding that “she was a wonderful sailor. She was going to write a book about women sailors.”

Ms. Swan’s 19-year-old daughter, ?Ann Maggie Swan-Fearon of Sag Harbor, suggested to the Unitarian Universalist congregation’s minister, the Reverend Alison Cornish, that a special service ?be held last Thursday for her students. Services for the rest of the ?community were held on Saturday.

“One of Eleanor’s great skills was ?introducing people one to another,” ?said Rev. Cornish, who described ?Ms. Swan as one of her closest friends. “There were so many different communities in that room on Saturday morning. I knew many of the communities through Eleanor—the book group, the library, the food co-op. She had very fluid boundaries around her family and friends.”

Rev. Cornish said Ms. Swan was very involved in children’s programs at the church, teaching kids about social justice and encouraging them to collect food for needy families.

Ms. Swan and Mr. Fearon also regularly corralled members of the congregation into Sunday afternoon sailing outings on their sloop, Red Bird.

“Her house was open for dinners. Food and conversation were two favorite things of hers,” said Rev. Cornish, who added that she hopes people honor ?Ms. Swan’s memory by introducing themselves to new people. “When you were invited to Eleanor’s house, you never knew who you might meet ?there. She believed that it was important to hang with a whole variety of ?people and learn from them.”

The Bridgehampton School also held a memorial assembly in Ms. Swan’s honor on Monday and plans to rename the April 18 International Dinner, which Ms. Swan started, in her honor.

“Understated intelligence—that was Eleanor to the max,” said Bridgehampton School Principal Jack Pryor. “She didn’t need to brag. What a pleasure to be around.”

Ms. Swan was born on September 19, 1947, in Geneva, New York. Her parents were Florence and Charles Swan.

She married Mr. Fearon on May 2, 1982, and they lived in Mastic for a short time before moving to Sag Harbor to raise their daughter.

She held a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and a master’s degree in education from Long Island University, having studied at Southampton College.

She is survived by her daughter; her brother, John Swan of California; her sister, Mary Jane Belinky, and her husband, Charles, of Elmira; and two nieces, two stepchildren and two grandsons.

Ms. Swan’s remains were cremated, and her family has not yet made further memorial plans.

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