Obituary: Gretchen Shane Swackhamer, 87, former Ridgfielder

Gretchen Shane Swackhamer
Gretchen Shane Swackhamer

Gretchen Shane Swackhamer, a former Ridgefielder, died after suffering a heart attack in Ventura, Calif. on Sunday, Sept. 30. She was 87.

The daughter of writer Margaret “Peggy” Woodward and humorist Ted Shane, she was born in Ridgefield in 1931. Gretchen attended Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Bennington (Vt.) College. While at Bennington she met E.W. Swackhamer and the two were married in 1951 at her parents’ home on North Salem Road. During her marriage, she modeled for fashion photographer Richard Avedon, to whom she was introduced by photographer Diane Arbus, a mutual friend. She also did research work for The Ridgefield Press’s Diamond Jubilee edition in the early 1950s.

Divorced in 1964, Gretchen resumed her studies earning General Studies and Master of Library Science degrees from Columbia University.  She put her degrees to good use working in the Stratford, and then Bridgeport, public libraries for nearly 10 years.

She moved to the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s where she worked for the Valley Community Players outside Seattle, Wash. There she also honed her already impressive knitting skills and began to do other needle work in earnest.

She loved theater, pets and was a voracious reader. Her life-long true love was baseball. From the time her father took her to “The House that Ruth Built” to see the Yankees to her last day, she was a Yankee fan using the internet to watch Yankee games.

She is survived by her children, Elizabeth Swackhamer of Topanga, Calif.; Ten Eyck Swackhamer of Houston, Texas, and three grandchildren, Alexander Pike, William Pike, and Sarah Swackhamer.

She was predeceased by her sister, Betty Grace Nash of Ridgefield.

There are no services planned at this time. Donations in her name to the Salvation Army are requested in lieu of flowers.