Norman P. Seagrave, a decorated World War II veteran, noted aviation lawyer and international law professor who set national swimming records into his 90s, died peacefully August 24 in Santa Fe, N.M., at the age of 97.
Warm-hearted, civic-minded, witty and exuberant, he lived a full and fascinating life. As a young Army officer commanding American and British troops in North Africa, he received both the Bronze Star and membership in the Order of the British Empire, and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. As international law counsel for Pan American World Airways, he negotiated the first flights between New York and Moscow at the height of the Cold War. A lifelong Democrat who believed strongly in community service, he was a popular minority member of the board of selectmen for the town of Darien, Conn., for well over a decade. He was the loving husband of Mary (Ryan), who died less than six months before him, and the adored and adoring father of four daughters.
Born Jan. 31, 1916, in Uxbridge and raised in Fall River, he was the second of three sons of Margaret and Arthur E. Seagrave. He graduated in 1937 from Bowdoin College, earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1940, then worked briefly for the Boston law firm of Nutter, McClennen & Fish before joining the Army.
After a distinguished war service, he joined the State Department, where he met and married his wife, and represented the U.S. in early international efforts to organize air transportation. They lived in Washington and Montreal before he was named attaché to the U.S. embassy in Rome. In 1954, the family settled in Darien when he accepted a job in New York with Pan Am, where he worked for about 25 years He later taught international business law at Franklin Pierce Law Center, now the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
In 1992, he and his wife moved to Brunswick, Me., home of Bowdoin College, where he had honed his lifelong interests in swimming and oratory. A backstroker, his greatest success came as a member of relay teams, and his name still appears on the relay record boards at Bowdoin for a race he won with his older brother, Orville. As a U.S. Masters swimmer, he was a member of three relay teams that set All-American records, most recently when he was 92.
A lively raconteur, his early success on the Bowdoin debate team won him the nickname Soapbox, which stuck. He loved to recite long narrative poetry, including The Cremation of Sam McGee, and he was much in demand to give civic speeches and to perform wedding ceremonies as a justice of the peace, and he served as the auctioneer for the biennial community auction on Cliff Island, Me., his beloved summer home.
He was as happy discussing global or local politics as he was fishing, tending his tomato plants or baking bread, as he did twice a week for most of his adult life. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he and his wife traveled widely until their 90s, when they moved from Brunswick to Santa Fe, N.M., to live with their oldest daughter, Anne. Even after his hearing, sight and finally even memory began to fail him, he was invariably gracious and congenial.
Mr. Seagrave is survived by his four daughters and their husbands, Anne and Reese Fullerton of Santa Fe, N.M., Molly and Walter Channing of Bridgehampton, N.Y., Jane Seagrave and John Kennedy of Edgartown, Martha Seagrave and Kurt Kaffenberger of Burlington, Vt.; 10 grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held in Brunswick later this fall.