Carolyn Swiney, a part-time resident of Sanibel Island, Florida, died at 5pm on Saturday June 3th, 2017 at the Donegal Hospice in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland, after a very short battle with cancer. Her husband John, son Daniel, daughter Lauren, and grandson Harlo were by her side. She is also survived by her brothers, Larry and Michael Haas, and her loving sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and step-grandson, many of whom were able to spend precious time with her before her death. She faced her brief illness as she had every other aspect of her life: with dignity, grace, humour, and enormous determination.
Carolyn was born December 26th, 1946 in Cincinnati Ohio, to Herman Carl Haas and Edna Louise Bauer. She was the third of four children, and the only girl. She grew up in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and then attended Rollins College in Florida, where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Upon graduation in 1968 she took a job as a social worker in Atlanta, GA.
In 1970, while holidaying on a beach in Barbados, she met her future husband, John Swiney, an Irishman from Co. Donegal who was working there for a telecommunications company. After a whirlwind and largely long-distance romance, they married on September 11th 1971, embarking on a 45-year adventure that would see them live all over the world. Their married life began in London, where son Daniel was born. Dubai was next, where Carolyn gave birth to her daughter Lauren in a women’s-only hospital. The family continued to move around the globe to Bermuda, Ireland, Hong Kong, and back to London. Carolyn embraced the adventure and challenge of every move, and made a fun, loving, and joy-filled home for her family wherever she went. In 1995, with both of their children in college, she and John bought a house on Sanibel Island, and for the next 22 years divided their time between Sanibel and the family farm in Co. Donegal, Ireland.
Carolyn was gregarious, smart, and fearless. She had an incredible ability to make ordinary moments special. Simple dinners became events. Trips to the corner store turned into adventures. A rainy afternoon became an opportunity to paint, play a game, or watch a favourite movie with a bowl of popcorn. A party or family gathering was transformed by her presence, with parlour games, musical hats, novelty earrings, specially-printed shirts, the occasional inflatable doll, and always just the right food for the occasion.
Carolyn was also possessed of extraordinary energy. Wherever she found herself in the world she would seek out challenges, tackle projects, make connections, and get involved. Her candour was legendary she said what she thought and you always knew where you stood. Everywhere she went, she made friends, and she kept them for life.
Carolyn’s early choice of a career in social work exemplified a life-long commitment to social service and community. In Hong Kong, she volunteered at refugee camps, orphanages and with the Samaritan helpline, while also working as a relocation adviser for those new to the territory. On Sanibel, she worked as a docent at the Historical Village, was a board member and treasurer of COTI, and vice president of her neighbourhood association. She was also an active member of the local Zonta chapter and, through Zonta, taught English as a second language for several years and was an organiser of the popular Peek at the Unique annual fundraiser.
Carolyn had planned many more happy years on Sanibel with her extraordinary group of friends and colleagues. She was taken too soon and far too suddenly. The island will be a drabber place without her. She did not believe in an afterlife, but if there is one then she will no doubt already be hard at work there, setting up committees, creating spreadsheets, reorganising the cupboards, and alphabetizing the books. Certainly, she’ll make sure there’s one hell of a party.
Contributions to her memory may be made to the Zonta Foundation of Southwest Florida at Zontasancap.com or mail to PO 1244, Sanibel, Fl. 33957.