Family of late West Lebanon woman grateful for community’s help

Mardrey Swenson in an undated photograph from her LinkedIn profile. (Courtesy photograph)

Mardrey Swenson in an undated photograph from her LinkedIn profile. (Courtesy photograph) Courtesy photograph

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-19-2024 4:51 PM

WEST LEBANON — Mardrey Swenson loved the Upper Valley.

She and her husband, Dr. Rand Swenson, first moved to the region in 1990. They raised three children here.

“We always knew the area was special, but it became doubly special with the outpouring of support and help on Sunday,” Rand Swenson said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Mardrey Swenson, 76, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, went missing from her Oak Ridge Road home in West Lebanon in the early hours of Sunday morning. Shortly after her husband notified the Lebanon Police Department, a multi-agency search and rescue effort launched.

Sadly, rescuers recovered her body Sunday afternoon in the Connecticut River.

Through his grief Tuesday morning, Rand expressed gratitude for the professional rescuers as well as “the remarkable number of friends, acquaintances, and schoolmates of my children who came out to spend their Sunday trying to find her.”

Rand is an emeritus professor of medical education and neurology at Dartmouth College. Mardrey Swenson taught childbirth classes at the Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital Birthing Center for 15 years.

Her work as a board-certified lactation consultant was “her life’s avocation,” Rand said.

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For nearly 30 years she served La Leche League, an international nonprofit that supports breastfeeding mothers.

“She helped hundreds of women to successfully breastfeed their children,” Rand said. “It was her passion and her proudest accomplishment.”

Mardrey Swenson was a fierce advocate for the rights and dignity of nursing mothers.

“When breast-feeding in public can take place as an everyday, unnotable event, then we will know that we have passed through a small moment in history when viewing breasts as sexual objects and advertising tools no longer supplants their role to nourish babies,” she wrote in a 1997 letter to the editor of the Philadephia Enquirer.

Mardrey Swenson enjoyed many hobbies, including kayaking on the Connecticut and Ompompanoosuc rivers, walking her beloved dog with friends and enjoying the area’s wildlife.

Unfortunately, her Alzheimer’s disease progressed and it “ultimately contributed to her wandering,” Rand said.

“The first time she did it was the last time she did it.”

The Lebanon Fire Department, New England K-9, New Hampshire Fish and Game officers, volunteers from the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team, and members of the community all assisted in the search.

The New Hampshire State Police helicopter played a key role in the effort, Lebanon Police Chief Phillip Roberts said Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t have the outcome we hoped for,” Roberts said.

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan@vnews.com or 603-727-3208.