In Memory of





Obituary for Joan C. Swanson (Coffin)

Beloved Cambridge Science Teacher

Joan Swanson, age 92, passed away at Mass General Hospital on February 14th, after a brief illness.

Born to Edytha and Melvin Coffin on June 2nd, 1930, in Medford, Mass, Joan lived with her parents and brother, Richard, in Medford and Connecticut. She earned a degree in English from Boston University, where she met and married Arthur Swanson in 1952. They had two children, Alisand and Rachel. In 1963, they separated, and Joan moved with the children to Egypt, where they lived on the outskirts of Cairo. She made many friends and enjoyed her life there for three years, until political tensions required her to evacuate in June of 1967.

Joan returned to the USA with her children and settled in the Boston area. She became a teacher, and taught science in the Cambridge schools for many years. Her students at Tobin were very fond of her, and some would stop her on the street years later to tell her how she had passed her love of science on to them. She was a talented teacher who didn’t shy away from blockbuster moves like bringing in exotic animals and blowing things up. She was informally known as “The Snake Lady,” though her menagerie included mammals and birds as well.

Joan lived on Huron Avenue for 53 years. She rented rooms in her home at affordable prices, and developed a large, extended family of tenants, some of whom stayed in touch for years afterwards. She loved classical music and attended the Boston Symphony Orchestra every Saturday night for most of her life. She supported numerous environmental causes and loved to watch birds and wildlife in her back yard. She was well-loved by many people, and leaves behind a better world, made cheerier and kinder by her presence.

Joan is survived by two daughters, Alisand and Rachel. She will be laid to rest at the Mt. Auburn cemetery, where she loved to birdwatch. A service is planned for the spring.