Olive Swift – photo courtesy of Wesley Swift
With sadness, Fenway Civic Association reports the death of our long time President and friend, Olive Swift, who passed away at her home in Sedalia, Missouri on July 14, 2014 at the age of 89.
Olive was a highly respected, vocal supporter of the Fenway neighborhood, and served as FCA president in the 1970’s during the early years of the association. A long-time resident of Clearway Street, she continued to advance the interests of the Fenway for many years on the often contentious FenPAC and Prudential project (PruPAC) committees and as a historical resource to the FCA board, before moving to Missouri in 2009 with her husband, Wesley.
In the words of Ed Burke, who co-chaired FCA with Olive in the late 1970’s, “When I first became involved with FCA, Olive Swift was the driving force and glue that held the organization together. Olive was small in stature but had the drive and the guts to take on anyone or thing that was impeding her Fenway. We had battles because of our different approaches to problems, but usually reached a conclusion that we could agree on. May she rest in peace.” Linda Brown, resident services coordinator for Morville House, recalls “Olive was my introduction to Fenway Civic Association when I came to Morville House. She cared so much about the Fenway community.”
A stickler for detail, Olive was known for keeping precise minutes — penned in shorthand — of the many meetings she attended for FCA, which she kept at the ready if any public official dared diverge from a previous commitment. With her sweet smile and dogged tenacity, Olive accomplished more than her size would ever suggest.
It was Olive’s allegiance to FCA and the importance it held for the Fenway neighborhood that compelled her to retain for years the historical records of Fenway Civic Association, dating back to its first meetings as the “Fenway Citizens’ Committee” in the former Hemenway Hotel in 1961. Happily, prior to Olive and Wesley’s departure from Boston in 2009, FCA board members retrieved the boxes of historical documents from her and arranged for their preservation, cataloging, and public access at Massachusetts Historical Society.
Olive is especially remembered for two of FCA’s signature events. The annual Flower Share with Northeastern University began in 1976, when she and then NU President Ryder devised the idea of NU offering flowers from its greenhouse for FCA members to beautify the Fenway and to also serve as an incentive for residents to join the neighborhood’s civic association. Another favorite, the annual Rose Garden Picnic, was begun by Olive and Ed Burke to highlight the poor condition and safety of the Back Bay Fens in the 1970’s and to begin bringing people back into the park.
For this writer, one of the most endearing memories is that of tiny Olive Swift in high heels, smiling up at her tall husband, Wesley, as they danced to the rhythmic swing of the seasoned “No-Name Band” at the Morville House Christmas Party. We are greatly indebted to Olive for her positive spirit, determination and accomplishments that have made the Fenway a more caring, livable neighborhood.
Fredericka Veikley, FCA Board Member