John M. McSweeney


John Miles McSweeney, a Chappaquiddick resident since the 1970s, and former resident of New York and Greenwich, Connecticut, died February 11, 2013 on Martha’s Vineyard. John died due to complications following a stroke. He was 67 years old.

John was born April 5, 1945, the second son to Mary Hartzell McSweeney and Edward F. McSweeney Jr. The McSweeney family resided in their home on Sutton Place in Manhattan. Theirs was a privileged and memorable family life of rarified beauty, culture, and refinement.

John’s mother, “Budgie,” was a pioneer advocate for women’s health care rights and reform. She was appointed by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to the special Commission for the Control of Epilepsy; a director and chairman of the Deafness Research Foundation; and appointed by Governor Malcolm Wilson to the New York State Advisory Committee on Mental Health. She also had a 20-year career as an art director, and an advertising and dress designer.

John’s father was employed by Mr. Condé Montrose Naste, the founder of Condé Nast Publications, before founding Edward F. McSweeney Association, a management, executive-training and financial-consulting firm in New York.

John was raised and educated in Manhattan and Armonk, New York. He graduated The New Hampton School and Pace University following which he earned his real estate broker’s license and was employed by Mortimer and Mortimer Realtors of Greenwich, Conn., dealing in commercial properties in New York and Connecticut. He was a member of the Stamford Yacht Club.

Yet, since his first visit to Martha’s Vineyard at just five years old, John was enamored with the Island. In the mid-1970s, he finally washed ashore.

John became the longtime tenant of Lawrence Cottage, where an infamous party in 1969 was held, and he felt surely the residence was haunted. John often told stories of the paranormal activity he experienced there (see page 125, “Haunted Island” by Holly Nadler). John finally designed and built his own dream home on Chappy while continuing his career in commercial and residential real estate.

John had an affinity for stories, both oral and written, and he wrote several stories featuring the colorful individuals who shaped the Island community. John’s intellectual thirst also included military history, inspired by his philosophy that human beings must reflect upon lessons learned in order to transcend prior poor judgment. This perspective is reflected in John’s book, “Fate’s Hinge,” a historical novel about World War II.

In 1988, John launched a congressional campaign as Republican State Representative for Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket districts. Though he did not succeed in his candidacy, John was strongly encouraged by state party leaders to pursue his political ambition. His charismatic personality and willingness to serve made him an ideal candidate. John had previously pursued a run for Dukes County Sheriff.

John strongly believed in contributing to the community and supporting those less fortunate. He served three terms on the Finance Committee of Edgartown, including the position of vice-chair. He was particularly proud to be one of the charter members of The Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard, an organization founded in 1992, through which he became a Paul Harris Fellow, Happy Dollar Chairman, and had perfect attendance for the many years preceding his decline in health. John was on The Whale’s Tail Park Committee, a group committed to honoring the Vineyard’s whaling legacy and among those responsible for the placement of Ovid Ward’s elegant Whale’s Tail sculpture near the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown.

John was a well-rounded athlete excelling at golf, hockey, and basketball. He coached basketball for the Y.M.C.A. in Greenwich. He also taught English at Falmouth High School. John inherited his lifelong enjoyment of golf from his parents. He was a member of the Woods Hole Golf Club but was transfixed with the Edgartown Golf Course where he became a “night crawler.” He considered it one of the most beautiful places on earth and spoke with particular respect for the 5th hole.

Surrounded by a wonderful and varied group of friends, John had a penchant for entertaining, cooking huge pots of spaghetti and regaling them with his stories. Capable of rallying big groups, John’s moniker became “the Chief,” and those fortunate enough to have known him describe John as “larger than life.” He possessed a joie de vivre that pervaded the entire McSweeney clan. He was admired for his integrity, his kindness, and especially for his generosity. John often paraphrased his father who believed in the acceptance of everyone, and his mother who believed that something may be learned from everyone we meet. Like his parents, John lived to serve others, seeing the good in everyone.

Sadly, John was predeceased by his two siblings, Edward F. (“Dooley”) McSweeney III, an international investment banker with Brimberg and Company, and Mary McSweeney, a graduate of Emma Willard School and Goucher College who attended the Sorbonne in Paris. She later married Ronald Wozniak, the prosecutor for Duchess County, New York.

He was also predeceased by an adored cavalcade of 17 golden retrievers, many of whom were widely celebrated on Martha’s Vineyard. In particular, “Old Mr. Seth” enjoyed acclaim for his athletic prowess in jumping off Big Bridge, diving to great depths to retrieve his ball.

John is survived by his beloved nephew, Edward F. McSweeney IV, and his nieces, Jennifer McSweeney, Thayer McSweeney Fox, Binkie McSweeney Orthwein, and Kitty McSweeney; also by nephews,John and Andrew Wozniak; his great nieces and great nephews; his cousins, Connaught and Gale Mahoney, and Erika Bard; and his former in-laws, Josephine, Penny, and Christine McSweeney, and Ronald Wozniak.

John’s final years were blessed by the presence of devoted friends including Victoria Haeselbarth and Alan and Amy Gowell of Edgartown. All of John’s friends, scattered far and wide, will cherish memories of John’s good will, enduring spirit, and boundless generosity.

John’s family and friends would like to extend heartfelt gratitude to the deeply loving and supportive staff of Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for their truly personal care of John. The nursing staff were angels during John’s time of need.

A celebration of the life of John Miles McSweeney will be held at the Chappaquiddick Community Center on Saturday, October 19, 2013, at 1 pm. All who knew John are invited to attend and to share their memories. Please call 508-627-4539 or email for further information.

John Miles McSweeney Memorial Donations may be made to The Golden Retriever Club of America National Rescue Committee (, and The Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard (

“Love is Everything.” ~ John Miles McSweeney