AN INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH SWANEY-JONES BY CHELSEA DIDONATO
I asked Deb for an interview near the end of 2021, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you because she’s amazing and interesting. I mean, just look at answers five, six, and seven. I could have turned this interview into a series on home improvement and renovations to a history lesson or how Deb’s family roots grew from entrepreneurial agricultural to the business maven Deb is today.
For those who haven’t had the chance to meet Deb, she’s our Sexton, resident photographer, lay leader, altar guild member, and previous vestry and transition team member.
1. You and Darrell have been great pillars in the St. John’s community. You’ve both served on various committees, volunteered for special events, and served in worship. What initially drew you to St. John’s to be active with the church outside of participating on Sundays?
Darrell and I would take a walk after church to get our egg sandwich from Olive Oyle’s each week. We saw folks coming out from their service at St. John’s with many happy faces. We both looked at each other and said, something good must be going on there. Church shopping at its finest! We jumped in shortly after we joined to learn, support, and grow our family.
2. What drew you to the Sexton position?
As I approach retirement from Unilever in the next couple of years, I clearly recognize that I need to keep busy! I also have an expensive hobby, photography! When the job posting became available, I knew it was the right thing to do. Darrell and I talked about what it meant from a time perspective and he supported my decision to pursue it. As we reopened, I saw a need to help bring our beautiful church back to its glory. One room at a time, the shine came through. It was a great feeling to know that I contributed to cleansing the soul of this treasured beauty.
3. What is most rewarding about your new position?
Initially, it was bringing our beautiful church back to life from COVID. Knowing that people can kneel to pray each Sunday, feeling safe knowing their place of worship is clean is the best feeling. I tackled one room at a time and created my rhythm. As we have opened more rooms, each room took on a new life.
4. Do you have a favorite project you’ve you’ve done so far or something that was most unexpected?
To date, my favorite project was painting the office and bringing a fresh modern look. I texted Chelsea and asked her what color she would like to see the office? “I’m painting it tonight!” We went through multiple shades of white and landed on what you see today! It was exciting to breathe fresh new walls into the office. Shampooing the rugs brought the most significant benefit to the church towards cleanliness.
5. What got you interested in taking a photography class and making photo cards for the church?
I am a self-taught photographer and joined a local camera club, CT Valley Camera Club, three years ago in an effort to build my photographic knowledge. I am now the Program Director for the club and network with professional photographers across the US to bring strategic programs as we progress to a more competitive environment. My personal photography is a way to capture nature’s beauty and share it with all. I currently sell my photography and have been honored twice at the Shoreline Art Images Competition, Lyme Landtrust and Energy and Environmental Protection Department.
My goal for the St. John’s photo cards is for parishioners to use them as notes of gratitude, well wishes, and a simple thank you to other parishioners to carry our tradition of kindness and support.
6. Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do outside of the many hats you juggle?
I am a seventh-generation Connecticut native. My family has deep roots in Old Lyme, Essex, and Deep River. My paternal 7th great-grandfather came to America from London to fight in the American Revolution and settled into Old Lyme to live out his remaining years. My maternal 4th great-grandfather brought the first load of ivory tusks into the Piano Factory in Ivoryton. My family has turned humble beginnings into the entrepreneurial drive to business ownership. My role models! My father taught me how to drive a stick shift, bale hay, animal husbandry, running a business, and exceed expectations for customers. I had a dream to be the first person to graduate college and work in corporate America. Did that! I am about to celebrate 36 years at Unilever as a Procurement Professional in the Logistics Industry. Being in Logistics, I will tell you that 2021 has been the most intense year. My motto is, “Break the chain, do better always!” I am the mom of two adult children who are now on their own.
7. What are some things you’re really enjoying right now?
I am currently remodeling our home. I have a passion for construction and creating beauty. By tying my procurement mind and creativity together, it makes for fun. I am not afraid to pick up a sander, paintbrush, or even rip wallpaper. I have taken myself on a journey with this house and have taught myself to slow down and do it right the first time. Well, almost – work in progress! Darrell and I sold our boat in September 2020, and we have our first overseas trip booked for 2022 to Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Fingers crossed!