Marie Swanson

Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004

Former longtime Juneau resident Marie Swanson, 88, died June 24, 2004, in Tualatin, Ore.

She was born Elma Marie St. Martin on Nov. 18, 1915, in Stevenson, Wash., to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph St. Martin. Her two sisters were left orphans when their parents died within two days of each other, while she was in grade-school. She and her younger sister spent their remaining grade-school years at the Christie Boarding School at Marylhurst in Lake Oswego, Ore.

She attended high school in Portland, where she found an interest in bookkeeping. Following high school, she studied for and received a degree as a registered nurse from Providence Hospital in Portland. Later, she would successfully complete a three-year correspondence course in accounting, receiving the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in that field.

She married Leslie E. "Red" Swanson on Sept. 28, 1935. They purchased a 10-acre "stump ranch" in the upper Hood River valley and made their home there. During the 1940s, she worked as a registered nurse and surgical nurse in the hospital in The Dalles, Oregon. She also drove a taxicab and rode as a medical assistant on the ambulance. Red worked for the Oregon Lumber Company, and during WWII he was sent to Southeast Alaska to obtain high grade spruce timber for the construction of gliders.

After the war, the Swansons moved to Juneau in 1946. Marie worked as a surgical nurse at St. Anne's Hospital for several years. She then worked as a dental assistant, receptionist, bookkeeper and lab technician, making bridges and false teeth for Dr. Williams, a dentist whose offices were on South Franklin Street.

In the mid-1950s, she went to work for the territory of Alaska in the payroll section of the Bureau of Public Works. After statehood, she was promoted to payroll section supervisor. During this time, she also did undercover work on the state ferries, exposing theft in the restaurants, bars and gift shops.

In the early 1970s, she lived briefly in Nenana, where she worked as a fill-in cook on barges running up and down the Tanana and Yukon Rivers. She returned to Juneau and worked as an accountant for the Department of Health and Social Services. When the Longevity Bonus program was established, she was selected to be its first director, setting up the program in the Department of Administration. In that capacity, she traveled extensively throughout the state conducting seminars in how the program operated. She retired from state government in the early 1980s.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 64 years, Red; two sisters; and parents.

She is survived by two sons, Joe and Leslie; and four grandchildren.

She was interred beside Red at the Oddfellows Cemetery in The Dalles, Ore. In lieu of flowers or other memorials, and in light of her life-long enjoyment good restaurants, the family asks that anyone who would like to properly remember Marie take a senior citizen out for a nice dinner and say a toast to Marie.

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