Cover photo for Mary Swaim's Obituary
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1956 Mary 2023

Mary Swaim

October 17, 1956 — July 23, 2023


“And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

“Hamlet,” Act Five, Scene Two

William Shakespeare

Mary Frank Swaim, 66, passed away on Sunday, July 23rd, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee, after a brief illness.

Mary Frank was born on October 17, 1956, to Kathryn Jane Robison Swaim and William Franklin Swaim, who preceded her in death.

She spent her early years in Charlotte, N.C., before the family moved to Cookeville, Tenn., where she was a graduate of Putnam County Senior High School (now Cookeville High School), and somewhere along the way, Mary Frank fell in love with acting.

Mary Frank graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a degree in Education Communications. But the classroom was too static for Mary Frank, and her friends wondered at the time if she was an actress with an adventurous streak or an adventurer with a fondness for acting. Her future, she knew, was to “melt those little-town blues away … and make a brand-new start of it  … in old New York.”

Off to the bright lights and big city she went, ever the adventurer, to chase her dream. In New York, she found herself, a deeper appreciation for and love of Shakespearean drama, a lifelong affection for the city and in the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, graduating from the program in 1984.

Mary Frank continued her acting career for many years, sometimes after a sojourn home to Middle Tennessee for a year or so, but always returning to New York where adventure is a daily exercise. She appeared in numerous productions through the years, but there was a big place in her heart for the Gorilla Repertory Theater Company, which stages free performances outdoors, often using Washington Square Park as its stage. It was a different experience, she recalled one time, having to change costumes behind a tree.

After appearing in a Gorilla Rep production that was reviewed in The New York Times, she remarked, “Once my picture was in the Times, I was ready to come home.”

Then, come home she did, always the Southern girl, and transitioned into a successful fundraising career that included senior-level development positions at the United Way of Greater Nashville, the American Red Cross (in Nashville, New York and Naples, Fla.), Naples Symphony Orchestra and the Nashville General Hospital Foundation, among others. She was, as her LinkedIn profile proclaimed, “a major gift maven.”

Her family and wide-ranging group of friends will miss her terribly but know that she is at rest in heaven, described by Shakespeare as, “the treasury of everlasting joy.”

Mary Frank is survived by her daughter Kathryn Jane Madera of Cookeville, Tenn., sister Spence Swaim Durham (Rick) of Dalton Ga., niece Margaret Kathryn Durham McLawhorn (David); great niece Margaret Ann McLawhorn and great nephew John Durham McLawhorn – all of Huntsville, Ala., and nephew Franklin Lyle Durham (Katie) of Arlington, Texas.

A memorial gathering will be scheduled at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to Nashville Food Project.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mary Swaim, please visit our flower store.


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