Nature 10

Albert Marvin Swain

December 1, 1940 ~ May 15, 2019 (age 78)


Verona – Albert Marvin Swain, age 78, passed away on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 while on vacation in Maui, Hawaii.  Al was born on December 1, 1940, in Madison, the son of Arthur and Annie (Anderson) Swain.  Al was raised on a dairy farm near Cambridge and always had a love for the outdoors.  He graduated as valedictorian of the Cambridge High School class of 1958 and went on to study at both the University of Wisconsin-Platteville as well as the University of Minnesota where he earned a PhD in Botany and Plant Ecology. On August 24, 1963, Al married his high school sweetheart, Astrid (Johannessen) and they were true companions and hiking partners for the past 55 years.  

Al began his professional life at UW-Madison, conducting early research into plant-based signs of climate change, and continued to contribute to a more knowledgeable world through teaching high school science in Beaver Dam, WI and several collegiate courses throughout the UW System. He will also be remembered by the many families for whom he served as US Postal Carrier on a daily walking route in Madison for 17 years before retiring, hand-delivering letters and a cheerful greeting in all kinds of weather. 

Though fulfilled by his work and family life, Al also had many interests and hobbies that allowed him to share his gifts with others.  Al was involved in many church, school and service organizations throughout his lifetime.  An active member of Salem UCC in Verona, Al served on many church councils and sang in the church choir for over 30 years.  Being of Norwegian descent, he also had a passion for singing with the Edvard Grieg Chorus of Madison. A lifelong learner himself, Al was always willing to share his knowledge and abilities with others.  He served as a tutor, hiking leader and literacy volunteer for students of all ages.  He realized his dream of learning to fly an airplane solo. An avid traveler, he visited 49 of 50 states and at least 9 countries, where he engaged in his passion for nature photography that he loved to share with others. The National Park Service honored him with a Special Service award in 1987 in recognition of his research and volunteerism.  One of Al’s greatest passions was his service and contributions to Blue Mound State Park.  Here he served as volunteer park naturalist for several years, a summer campground host and was an active member of The Friends of Blue Mound State Park.  In addition, he helped develop and grow an interpretive hiking program as well as conducting research projects pertaining to the history of the Blue Mound area, with a book soon to be published on this topic.  In 2015, the ‘Swain Prairie’ was established at Blue Mound State Park in recognition for his efforts on this prairie restoration.

Memories of Al will be treasured by his wife, Astrid, and their children: Marianne (Darren) Cavness, Steven Swain, and Phil (Michelle) Swain; his loving grandchildren: Bethany, Grant, Claire and Olivia; brother, Robert (Lois) Swain, and his niece and nephews, Lori, Scott and Gary and their families. Countless friends and colleagues will mourn his passing, and are encouraged to spend time reflecting on Al’s memory and the bountiful beauty of God’s creation by hiking through a favorite state park.

Al was welcomed to Heaven by his parents, Arthur and Annie Swain.

Funeral services will be held at Salem United Church of Christ, 502 Mark Drive, Verona, WI on June 1, 2019 at 10:30am, with Rev. Dr. Mark Yurs officiating.  A visitation will be held at Ryan Funeral Home, 220 Enterprise Drive, Verona, WI on May 31, 2019 from 4-7pm.  To honor Al’s memory, the family encourages you to consider a donation to: The Friends of Blue Mound State Park or Salem UCC.   To view and sign this guestbook, please visit:

To send flowers to Albert's family, please visit our floral store.


May 31, 2019

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Ryan Funeral Home – West Side Chapel – Madison
5701 Odana Road
Madison, WI 53719

Funeral Service
June 1, 2019

10:30 AM
Salem United Church of Christ
501 Mark Drive
Verona, WI 53593

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