Thomas Swain - Memorial

Tom · Tommy · Dad · Bubby

Life Story

Thomas Malcolm Swain, 66, passed away peacefully on December 6, 2020 at home surrounded by his family. Tom was born on December 9, 1953 in Camden, NJ to the late Thurber Malcolm Swain and Edna (Anderson) Swain. He grew up in Medford Lakes, NJ with his parents and three siblings in their charming lakefront log home on Minnetonka Trail. With the lake in his backyard, Tom enjoyed countless hours fishing, canoeing and ice-skating, and later reminisced about falling asleep to the sound of the bullfrogs croaking outside his bedroom window as a child. This was the beginning of Tom’s life along the water with two riverfront homes that followed (Rustic Knolls on the “wild and scenic” Musconetcong in Hackettstown, and Pondview on the Pequest in Great Meadows), all allowing him to enjoy his lifelong passion for fishing combined with the serenity of the flowing water.

Tom had many fond memories of growing up in Medford Lakes: fishing and canoeing adventures with friends, achievement of the Bronze Shield after ten years of great fun at Medford Lakes summer camp, several award-winning floats in the annual Medford Lakes Canoe Carnival. He reminisced about riding his bike to school every day, as well as riding his bike home for lunch daily…often with a friend joining him for one of his mom’s grilled cheese and jelly, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, before riding bikes back to school.

Without referring to it as such very often, the Golden Rule was the philosophy that Tom lived his life by, starting from his early years in Medford Lakes, and continuing throughout his entire life. Throughout his childhood Tom achieved perfect attendance at Sunday School at the Cathedral of the Woods (Protestant Community Church) of Medford Lakes which was just a few doors away from his home and where his mom was Director of the Cherub Choir, and Superintendent of the Sunday School.

Tom was a member of the very first graduating class of Shawnee High School, and as put by his former teammate and current head football coach there, “Tom was the original #74 on the Shawnee HS football team – Class of 1972…Tom was a caring teammate who always brought a smile to those he came in contact with.” Tom’s numerous high school friends, many of whom became cherished life-long friends, were a source of happy memories and true joy during school years and continuing throughout his life. In earlier years, Tom enjoyed surfing at LBI and beyond, and had a life-long passion for surf-fishing at the Jersey Shore, in Hatteras, and other points along the East coast. Outer Banks beach-driving to remote beaches or to wherever the fish were running was something that he loved to do. His annual family trips to Hatteras continued for more than 30 years.

Tom graduated from Radford College (now University) in 1978. His door was always open to all at Radford…whether in Draper just off his favorite frisbee field, or in Floyd where his window (with ever-present stereo music entertaining the adjacent tennis courts and campus beyond) was often the preferred entrance for his many college friends. He met his wife Denice at Radford in 1974 where they initially shared their NJ roots and their common interest in Bruce Springsteen at a time when only the kids with a connection to the Jersey shore had ever even heard of Springsteen, yet. At Radford, Tom was unofficial “Big Brother” to the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, always there to help. In addition to classes, Tom’s four years at Radford also included many days fishing in Claytor Lake and the New River, as well as enjoying the beauty of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

Married in 1984 to his wife, Denice, Tom was a devoted husband, and later became a devoted father to his two sons, Tim and Doug. His sons (born in 1986 and 1988, respectively) were a source of pride, joy and wonder for him. And just two months before he passed away, his granddaughter, Quinn was born. Tom spent one special weekend with his granddaughter before his passing, and it was love at first sight. Just holding her and looking into her eyes brought a tear to his. He shared his love for music with Quinn as he was the first person to sing songs to her, and she loved it. Tom was thrilled to be Quinn’s “Bubby” even though it was only for the final two months of his life.

One of Tom’s greatest passions in life was for skiing. After being self-taught to ski at about age 12, Tom spent all of his teen and young adult winters frequently skiing the mid-Atlantic and New England. Starting with his mom’s travel-trailer parked at a Poconos ski hill so Tom could ski (before he could drive) …to the Vermont ski lodges he later stayed at with friends, Tom found a way to ski nearly every winter of his life. So, it was no surprise when later he taught his own family to ski, and loved their numerous family ski trips to Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, New England, New York, Canada and more. The ski condo they’ve owned on the mountain at Owls Head (Quebec) for the past two decades was a special place for Tom to share his passion for skiing with family and friends. Tom continued to enjoy skiing his entire life, including last winter.

Boating was also one of the things Tom enjoyed most. He loved to explore new lakes and took his boat all over the East to do so: dozens of lakes in the Adirondacks, Quebec, New England, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. He didn’t hesitate to tow his boat to and through places that others wouldn’t dare…through the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, into Canada, up over Clingman’s Dome (elevation 6600+ ft.) in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, or right through the middle of cities…who other than Tom would tow a boat right up to the front door of the busiest airport in the country (Atlanta) to drop off a family member after a boating trip?

Finally, THE lake. Tom was so looking forward to retirement at his lakefront property at Smith Mountain Lake, in Virginia. On a beautiful sunset-view point lot with what is probably the largest privately-owned residential dock on this huge lake, Tom was excited to share this special spot with his family and friends, and to have the time and place for some great fishing.

Tom was an Environmental Project Manager for Veolia Environmental, in Flanders, NJ (formerly AETC when he started there in 1989, later AETS, aka Waste Management, aka Onyx…) for 31 years. Sometimes joking about the “slime-sucking” nature of the industry, Tom was proud to be part of the broader effort to create a cleaner world. Friends, though, were really the special part of Veolia for him, and he truly loved his many friends at or associated with Veolia. Although often light-hearted, Tom’s integrity was a guiding force for him, in work and in life. Despite being responsible and very dedicated to his work, Tom always kept his coworkers laughing, and always kept the great music (from his awesome playlist) coming to brighten up the work day. His comical singing-dancing Homer Simpson Santa animated character will surely be missed in his office this Christmas. Tom’s previous work also included Lakeland Bus Lines in Dover, NJ, and a self-owned landscape design company during his earlier years. Among the many things that Tom will be remembered for are the unique “Mancation” ski trips that he organized and hosted at his condo in Canada for his Veolia friends.

Tom will also be remembered for hosting (the still legendary) annual Opening Day of Trout Season Party on the river in Rustic Knolls, for building his own in-ground pool in Pondview, and for the many spectacular fireworks shows he produced in the backyard. It was his love for fun and his love for friends and family that drove it all.

Tom’s easy-going, generous, caring personality, fearless sense of adventure, his ever-present sense of humor, his appreciation for music, and his devotion to family and friends will be missed by all.

Tom is survived by his beloved wife of 36 years, Denice Marsh Swain; two devoted sons, Timothy Marsh Swain and his partner Teresa Miller, and Douglas Malcolm Swain and his wife Kerry Swain; cherished granddaughter, Quinn Marsh Swain; loving siblings, Christine Swain Graziani and her husband, John; William T. Swain and his wife, Betty; and Kenneth Swain and his wife, Ying; two nieces, Brianna and Jenna Graziani; two nephews, Christopher Swain, and David Sullivan; brother-in-law Dewitt Marsh and his partner, Mary Coston; and by many other loving family members and friends.

Tom’s Memorial/Life Celebration will be held at a future date (in 2021) when it is safer for friends and family to gather. The date of the Memorial Service will be announced here in the coming months. His family will handle the interment privately. Tom’s family would like to express their gratitude for all the support they have received from friends and family over the past year.

For those who wish to offer a living memorial to Tom, his family suggests donating blood (Tom received several life-extending blood transfusions during his illness), or teaching someone to ski or to fish, or by performing a random act of kindness.

For those who wish to make a donation in memory of Tom, his family suggests honoring him through any of the following, each of which represents part of Tom’s life:

Music/Radford: Radford University Public Radio Station WVRU
Please specify Fund Name “WVRU – In memory of Tom Swain.” Tom’s family has arranged for donations to result in a dedication and broadcast of a song from Tom’s prized personal playlist.

Skiing: National Ability Center (NAC) or New England Healing Sports Association

Fishing: Outer Banks Preservation Association

Faith/Peace: Cathedral of the Woods (PCC) of Medford Lakes: specifically, its Peace Initiative

Lake/Boating: Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire/Rescue Squad

Cancer: American Cancer Society

Written by Denice Swain