Kennebunk Maine : Allan Armstrong Swenson 89 yrs., a resident of Kennebunk died Friday April 14, 2023 in Cape Elizabeth Maine.
Allan was born in Passaic, New Jersey on Dec. 26, 1933, the son of Harold Oscar Adolph Swenson and his wife, Amy Tudor Dugdale Swenson.
He was graduated with honors from Clifton High School in Clifton, N. J. in 1951 where he served as editor of the school newspaper and yearbook. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Rutgers University in 1955. On Dec. 23, 1955 he married Sheila Jane Kerr Haglund who accompanied him on his assignment as an Army Intelligence Officer with 525 Military Intelligence Group and XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Swenson spent most of his life as a multimedia writer that included more than 25 years as a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist, author of 58+ books for national publishers and a radio-TV personality. He was a veteran member of the Overseas Press Club, affiliated with the National Press.
As a youth, he was active in 4-H Club projects and earned his Phi Beta Kappa key at Rutgers University where he received a BA degree with high honors in Journalism. Following graduation he became a radio-TV writer at WNBC in New York for the Phil Alampi shows.
Swenson was recruited into Army Intelligence while Cadet Colonel of the Army ROTC at Rutgers University. He served as an Intelligence Officer during active duty with the 525 MI Group and with XVIII Airborne Corps. He also was involved in other Intelligence activities for the government as an Army Reserve Officer, and became a Life Member of the Association for Intelligence Officers. From this background, Swenson wrote his “Guide to the CIA” and “Guide to National Security”. As a Captain in Army Intelligence and Security, he helped found both the New England and Maine Chapters of the Association for Intelligence Officers.
Following active Army duty from 1955 to 1957, Swenson became a multimedia writer in New York City. He was both a copywriter and an account executive for the Albert Sidney Noble ad agency and Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample, a leading national advertising agency. Concurrently, Swenson became a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist for 25+ years and was the NEA-United Media garden authority columnist, appearing in more than 200 papers nationwide. He also was a long time member of the Garden Writers Association.
Swenson formed his own Public Relations Agency in NYC in the 1960s, Armstrong Associates, Inc., serving American Cyanamid, Topper Toys, Eastern Airlines, Shell Chemical and other major firms, while continuing as a nationally-syndicated columnist and radio/TV personality. He wrote farm and garden news for WCBS Radio for 9 years, and briefly had his own program on the Mutual Radio Network, appearing on more than 400 stations.
An avid outdoorsman, Swenson founded Camp America and created its innovative, nationwide Fly In-Camp Out program. With key outfitters in major cities, his organization enabled families to fly from their home areas, rent van campers to full size motor homes and explore outdoor America coast to coast. He sold the organization to Winnebago Industries, the manufacturer of the motor homes featured by Camp America.
Based on his ongoing, popular gardening columns, Swenson became an author and wrote more than 50 books published by Ballentine, Doubleday, Random House, McMillan, McKay, Penguin and other national publishers. His series of Plants of the Bible, Flowers of the Bible, Herbs of the Bible and Foods Jesus Ate led to his periodic appearance on network TV programs including the Today Show and the 700 Club. He also wrote the Inflation Fighter’s Victory Garden, Inflation Fighters Preserving Guide, Plan Your Own Landscape, Landscape You Can Eat, and dozens of specialty garden books plus the L.L. Bean Canoeing Handbook.
For young readers, Swenson wrote a book series including World Beneath Your Feet, World Above Your Head and World In A Tidal Pool. Under his pen name for children’s books, Virginia Langley, he also authored Hurray for Christopher Cat, about a Maine Coon cat, Thar She Blows, about a whale-watching trip, Babes in the Woods, about baby animals and their habitats, and several others for various publishers.
After moving to Maine in 1976, Swenson was asked to create and build a Book Division for the Guy Gannett Publishing Company, publishers of the Press Herald and Sunday Telegram. As Editor-in-Chief, he recruited dozens of authors including Bill Caldwell, Marjorie Standish and many others. During a 10 year period, Swenson published more than 80 Maine topic books by Maine authors. He also wrote several children’s books for that firm under the pen name Virginia Langley.
Over the years, Swenson appeared on various network TV shows about his books, including the syndicated Good Day Show, originating in Boston where he became known as TV’s “Doctor Plant”. He then created his own Gardener’s Notebook TV series for syndication.
Rather than retire when he reached 70 years old, Swenson began a new career becoming a popular speaker on cruise ships of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Azamara and Princess Cruise Lines about his books as well as ports of call in the Caribbean, Baltic and other areas. With his wife Sheila, they gave their colorful programs on cruise ships and also popular slide shows and programs about their travels to residents at Senior Centers and retirement facilities in Maine and New Hampshire.
Swenson was invited by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark to the Leif Ericson Millennium in 2000 in Greenland. He focused on a new hobby of Viking history and wrote hundreds of articles about Norse history for a wide range of Scandinavian-America publications. For his writings about Nordic heritage he was awarded the prestigious Leif Ericson Medal.
Swenson was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Sheila Jane Kerr Haglund Swenson and his son Boyd Allan Swenson.
He is survived by sons, Peter Jon, and his daughter Alyssa; Drew Erik and his children Parker and Katie; Meade Christopher and wife Ann Marie and their son Erik John, and his daughter-in-law Lori Swenson and sons Trevor and Casen.
Visiting hours will be held from 4-6PM, Friday, June 2 at Bibber Memorial Chapel 67 Summer Street Kennebunk, ME. A Memorial Service will be held at 11AM, Saturday, June 3 at the Church on the Cape, 3 Langsford Road, Kennebunkport followed by urn interment at Hope Cemetery, Kennebunk.
To leave a message of condolence, please visit Allan’s Book of Memories at www.bibberfuneral.com.
Arrangements are entrusted to Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer St. Kennebunk.