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Thelma Swain
(1908-2008)

Thelma SwainAccording to her family, Thelma Swain's mantra throughout her life, and particularly in her final years, was "nobody's luckier than me." She made her life and she relished every moment of it (all 99 years), with acts of appreciation and admiration for those around her. Thelma told many that she didn't really "come into her own" until she was 75 years old.

Thelma Swain has a soft spot in her heart for the underdog; that young person who did not have much. She was appreciative of and captivated by their stories of "beating the odds." Her philanthropy reflected that - with gifts over the years. She became resident "grandmother" to the teen mothers at the Maine Children's home for Little Wanderers in her last ten years, and spent many hours rocking their babies and talking to them about their life, about their potential, and about their important role as mothers. They particularly enjoyed hearing about her challenges being ahead of her time, going to college, and becoming a career woman and a parent.

Her touch turned underdogs into overachievers. Through her legacy, teen mothers graduate and go to college with hope, encouragement, and scholarship dollars she provided to ensure they could. Her many supportive personal notes and cards to these young ladies meant more to them than she will ever know. A plaque about the personal lounge bears her name "Grammy Swain Lounge." Thelma Swain has a lust for life that was infectious. She taught many about how to live life to the maximum, and she sincerely cared about each person she touched.

Thelma Swain made significant and long-lasting contributions to Maine people through her work with and support of the Maine State Museum, the only museum that preserves and interprets Maine's pre-history, history and natural science. She wore many hats at the museum. She was a dedicated volunteer, bringing her love of learning, attention to detail, and insightful observations to research projects. Plus she worked tirelessly on compiling, filing, and organizing information about the Maine State Museum's own history. In the course of that work, she became a fierce proponent of the efforts to promote the museum and its educational programs and exhibitions to the people in every corner of the state. She felt that Maine people should value their Maine heritage, as she herself did, and learn about that heritage through the museum's offerings.

While her personal volunteer efforts were significant enough, she did not stop there. She donated funds to upgrade the Museum Store and enhance its educational mission. She provided funding to publicize the museum on a public radio and television, thereby parenting two of her favorite Maine-based statewide organizations, the Maine State Museum and Maine Public Broadcasting Network. Finally, Thelma donated many household items to the museum collection. Dating from the early decades of the 1900's to the 1960's and reflecting several generations of Maine women's domestic lives, many of these items have been included in the museum's current "At Home in Maine " exhibition.

Thelma Swain believed deeply that education was the path out of poverty for Maine people, especially women. It was that conviction and her love of the occupational programs of the Maine Community College System, which led to her scholarship donations to the Maine Community College System over the past fifteen years totaling nearly two million dollars. The people that the college system are designed to serve were near and dear to her heart. She was awarded "Trustee Emeritus" status by the Board of Trustees of the Maine Community College System as a testament to the deep respect and lasting impact her gifts have had on their students. Only twice in their history has the Board awarded this special designation. Because of her, thousands of Maine people have been given the opportunity for a brighter and more prosperous future.

Thelma Swain was a simple, modest lady; she didn't build a rocket... or stop a war...or write a book... or run a business. She represented "everywoman". Yet she had an incredible impact on literally thousands here in the State of Maine. Her volunteer work with the Maine State Museum, her personal and financial commitment to the Maine Community College System, and her love for the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers and the teen parents in the Teen Parent School Program made her unique. Hers is a story of quiet strength, unconditional love, and passion for life and perseverance for Maine underprivileged, especially the youth, and in particular of the teen mothers who lacked good female role models.

2006 Picture Inducted March 2010