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W&D Weekly
January 22, 2014
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Window & Door's John Swanson Passes Away

John Swanson, editor and associate publisher of Window & Door, passed away on Sunday, January 19, 2014, in Manhattan. He was 52 years old.

John started his publishing career at Ashlee Publishing in New York City in 1984. He was founding editor of Fenestration, launched in 1987, the first North American magazine specifically targeting the residential window and door market. There he orchestrated the magazine’s rapid growth and success until he left in 1999 to join the National Glass Association.

As editor/associate publisher of the national trade group’s magazine, then named Window & Door Fabricator, John continued to serve the industry with his insightful commentary and editorial and strategic direction for another 14 years.

John continued to contribute to Window & Door during 2013 as he battled throat cancer. Together with the Window & Door editorial team, he did the advance work for another trademark industry list: “The Top Specialists,” which will be published in the magazine this Spring.

Over a decade ago, John rebuilt the magazine’s circulation to reflect true vertical integration. His efforts to champion  independent window and door dealers, especially, gave rise to the Window & Door Dealers Alliance, an initiative of the National Glass Association. The WDDA leadership continued to draw on John’s industry knowledge and connections as it grew and launched targeted events such as the Window & Door Dealers Forum.

In his inaugural “Opening Remarks” column in Window & Door’s February/March 1999 issue of the Top 100 Manufacturers, John wrote about his beginnings in the industry: “When I got started, people didn’t quite understand what I was saying when I said our magazine is devoted to the window and door industry. Wood window and door manufacturers said they were in the millwork business. Replacement window manufacturers said they were in the vinyl business, and aluminum window manufacturers saw themselves in the aluminum products business. That has definitely changed.”

John was there every step of the way to describe, and often predict, the changes to come. “John's insightful way of sharing a story with his audience was done in a manner that showed not only his professionalism, but also his passion for this industry,” says Matt Kottke, marketing communications manager, Truth Hardware. “To me, John's legacy will be that of quiet, caring, and professional leader who, through his gifts, helped keep an industry informed and engaged.”

John is survived by his wife, Lee, and children, Ellen and Harry, of Manhattan; his mother, Anne of Cotuit, MA and two sisters, Joy and Gail. 

The funeral service is Saturday, February 1 at 11 a.m. at Grace Church, 802 Broadway at 10th St., New York, NY. A reception will follow at Grace Church. All are welcome.

A memorial page for remembrances is available here:

Please note that many of John’s industry friends have asked about a memorial fund or donation. We are awaiting instructions on this; please check the memorial page for an update.


For John Swanson, 1961-2014
By Nicole Harris

At the end of 2013, I visited the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. After wandering the grounds awhile, I walked inside and the first thing I saw was an exhibit called, At the Window: The Photographer's View. My first thought was, “I have to tell John about this.”

The photographs were evocative, funny, pensive, thoughtful and a little startling. Art is supposed to make you pause and reflect. These made me think about John.

Among the things I would have told him was, there were no door photos! As all who knew him know, John was a fenestration industry editor-advocate. Doors, he would repeat, are an integral part of the market we cover. He pushed us to remember that and so much more.

John's vision for the fenestration industry originates in a now-defunct magazine of that title. I first met John in 1993 at the interGLASSmetal/Fenestration World show when its official magazines, Glass Digest and fenestration, were owned by Ashlee Publishing in New York. As the new publisher of Glass Magazine, owned by the National Glass Association, my sales team and I were there early to set up our new booth in the "enemy camp."

Of course, I already knew of John Swanson, having studied fenestration’s well-established leadership; it was the only game in town. I soon spotted him in the middle of a show aisle, surrounded by several other people. What I didn’t know as I walked up to introduce myself was that these were among his many industry groupies, the work friends he would stop to talk to at every meeting and every trade show during his 26 years covering the industry.

I was struck instantly by his gentle, almost reserved response to my intrusion into this congenial gathering. John was never one to use his deep knowledge, his intelligence or even his physical height to intimidate, much less make anyone—even an erstwhile competitor—feel unwelcome.

This was two years before the National Glass Association bought what was to become Window & Door magazine and another two before he agreed to come work for us. His one condition: That he run the magazine working and living out of New York City. No problem, we said.

Eventually I came to know John's more unreserved, ‘Wild Turkey’ side and fully appreciate his often cryptic, dry sense of humor.

I visited John in the hospital in mid-December. It was no surprise to find his room a little crowded; this time, the “groupies” surrounding John were three of his University of Rochester friends. They had all worked together, including John’s wife, Lee, at the college newspaper. As he had done 20 years earlier, John made me feel right at home. His friends and I commiserated about the seismic changes in publishing. They shared stories and told me about when they found out that two among them—John and Lee—had secretly been dating awhile. They told me how surprised they were, and then how surprised they weren’t, and how happy they were for this couple “who belonged together.”

When I told Lee that the entire Window & Door team was in the Virginia office this week and planned to celebrate John by toasting him with his favorite drink, Lee wrote back to me with this:

"Yes, let the Wild Turkey flow! Please tell everyone that he treasured being a part of this industry and working diligently in it for so many years. It was his great pleasure to meet so many people across the country who touched him with their hard work, perseverance and their realness. He was like them in those ways, and I think that's part of the reason people held him in such high regard. He also knew how to keep his mouth shut and listen - how great is that?"

Great indeed. We’ll miss you, John.




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