NEMPA mourns the passing of John Sweeney

This morning Gene Ritvo sadly passed on word that New England Motor Press Association member and former executive director of the Larz Anderson Automotive Museum John Sweeney has unexpectedly passed away. We pass along our sincerest condolences to the Sweeney family.  He will be missed by everyone.


Gene’s note:
It is with deep regret and sadness that I report the death of NEMPA member John Sweeney.
When he left winter test day on Saturday, he said he did not feel well and was going home to bed.
Sometime during the following week he died.
John had been an active NEMPA member for years and was formerly the executive director of the Larz Anderson Automobile Museum.
He was an old and dear friend whom I shall miss very much. For many years we did our annual pilgrimage to Pebble Beach together.
John loved cars and car people. His knowledge, his wisdom, his humor, and his warmth were among the many qualities I shall miss.
He was a unique individual and I consider myself fortunate to have had him as a friend.
gene ritvo

3/3/2009 Updates From Gene

Dear Gene,

Last week I shared with you the sad news of the passing of fellow Motorhead, John Sweeney. Those of you aware of dual tragedy which befell the Sweeney family that week will appreciate that it has been very difficult to complete the necessary arrangements for John and also respond to all your inquiries.

Yesterday, I spoke with David Sweeney, John’s brother. He is in the process of releasing obituary notices to the Boston and Seattle newspapers. He asked me to thank those of you who were kind enough to write to the family and he shared the following information with me.

Because it has been impossible to establish an exact time of death, official documents will show that John died on February 19th, the day his body was actually discovered. A statement regarding the cause of death is not available at this time.

John’s body has been taken to the Diaz-Healy Funeral Home in South Lawrence, MA. He will be cremated today and his ashes will be returned to his family in Seattle, WA. A memorial service will be held this coming Saturday, 11:00 AM PST, at the Evergreen-Washelli Funeral Home at 11,111 Aurora Ave. North, Seattle WA 98133. Their phone number is 206-362-5200. He will be buried with his mother and father. Those who knew John well would also know that to be re-united with his beloved mother would be his fondest wish. D

The initial shock of death has now passed and although the grieving will continue, it is also time think about celebrating the life of John H. Sweeney, aka Lamont Cranston, self-proclaimed “man of mystery”.

The Larz Anderson Auto Museum, in late May or early June, will be the site of a memorial service. The date has yet to be finalized with the family. We are planning a celebration of John’s life. It will be a time of laughter and tears and the telling of tales amidst the beautiful vehicles he so enjoyed. Clubs or groups planning their own tributes are encouraged to do so and advise us so that we can post it on our MMR Event Calendar.

Many of you have written to me with suggestions for the memorial services and other more lasting tributes to our friend. All suggestions are welcomed, and once we determine the date and draw closer to the event we will inform everyone in the motorsports community of details and how they can participate in this celebration.

John’s Obituary


John was born May 18, 1944 in Seattle, Washington, and died February 19, 2009 in Franklin, Massachusetts. John was a long-time resident of Franklin, Massachusetts. He grew up in the Blue Ridge area in Seattle. He was the son of Hubert L. Sweeney and Ann H. Sweeney, who are now both deceased. John was an Eagle Scout and Student Body President at Ballard High School. He graduated from Harvard University. He was the former Executive Director of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts. John was a passionate collector of many things during his lifetime, most recently of vintage cars. He was a good and loyal friend to many people. He died unexpectedly, at his home. The cause of death is still being determined. He is survived by his brother, David B. Sweeney, of Bellevue Washington, whose wife is Janice Sweeney, and by nephew Stuart Wilson and nieces Jennifer Gregory, Ann Eby and Katharine Sweeney. A funeral service will be held in Seattle at the Evergreen-Washelli Funeral Home at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 7. Evergreen-Washelli is located at 11111 Aurora Avenue North in Seattle. A memorial is being planned later in the Boston area.

One Response to NEMPA mourns the passing of John Sweeney

  1. John Paul February 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    From the Providence Journal-very true words .

    “He was my mentor,” said Mark Hurwitz, chairman of the Newport Concours d’Elegance. “He was extremely knowledgeable and a good friend.”

    Sweeney was known for driving to auto events in his green C-Type Jaguar or his white XK120 Jaguar, usually sporting a fleece-lined bomber jacket, leather helmet and split goggles.

    “Of course, he was a great disappointment to his (Yale-educated) family,” said Hurwitz, noting that while he had been awarded full scholarships to both Harvard and Yale, Sweeney decided to attend Harvard.

    “(Sweeney) was captivated by the essence and style of bygone eras,” said Peter Bourassa, president of in a written statement. “An inveterate pack rat, he surrounded himself with books and arcane artifacts that few of his friends could ever understand or appreciate. Yet others often recognized him as an expert in these very specialized areas of interest.”

    “John was the master of standing out quietly. To many John appeared the picture of a man frozen in time. His air of confidence and winning smile brought that anachronism to life. He reveled in being subtly different; From the tips of his dress slippers to the stem-wound watches he wore every day, John Sweeney was quietly being John Sweeney.”

    – Peter C.T. Elsworth

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