August Marches On

August 9, 2018

 Marion enjoyed another fine Old Fashioned Days experience last weekend. We understand that in spite of the very warm temperatures the crowds were large and the entertainment fine. Marion does know how to throw that yearly party.

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Personally, I was sorry to have missed the Alumni Reunion and the chance to see my friends and classmates from the Class of 1968. But sometimes these things just happen. The Gardener’s sister’s wedding was a wonderful affair and we do not miss any opportunity to be with our family, even though it meant missing Old Fashioned Days and my 50th class reunion. There is always next year.

I was sorry to learn of the passing of Mary Boyd Downing last week. In fact, it was she who inspired this week’s M. Alice Chapin Library Ghost of Main Street. Mary was involved with the library for a long time, from high school patron to librarian, a position she held for 25 years. From 1973, when Mary took the position from the much loved Martha Fordyce, until her retirement in 1998, she helped countless school children and teens and recommended and sought out hundreds of books for library patrons. She was always a bright face, big smile and helping hand at the desk. Mary clearly loved her job.

The Marion Public Library has grown tremendously through the years. Each of our librarians has had an impact on that growth. It was Mary Downing who oversaw the move from the old library to the new facility on Main Street, taking us from the homey house library we’d known for so long to the more formal setting we have today. That had to have been a monumental task, and one which I’m sure she found most challenging and rewarding. More space meant more books and the opportunity to do more to reach the public. She was certainly dedicated to the readers of Marion, Michigan.

When my mother passed away 25 years ago I had a quantity of books on WWII from her library which I did not wish to keep. Nor did I want to toss them out. I was raised to respect books and tossing them out was and is unimaginable. I went to the library and offered them, perhaps as a historical collection. She graciously declined, their age being a factor. But, knowing my angst, she took them, telling me that folks in a nearby township were seeking to start a library for their small town and that she would make sure they got them. I don’t know if that was so, but I am eternally grateful to Mary for her kind gesture.

The ladies of the VFW Auxiliary present Librarian Mary Downing with a new flag for the library. Left to right: Susie Wyman (former Press columnist), Rhoda Chamberlain, Librarian Mary Downing, and Irene Wheeler. This photo appeared in the Press and later in an Historical Museum calendar.

The ladies of the VFW Auxiliary present Librarian Mary Downing with a new flag for the library. Left to right: Susie Wyman (former Press columnist), Rhoda Chamberlain, Librarian Mary Downing, and Irene Wheeler. This photo appeared in the Press and later in an Historical Museum calendar.

Ten years ago I visited Tom and Mary Downing, interested in seeing some CT Sadler photos they own, their previous home having belonged to Sadler’s daughter. It soon became clear that their lovely home on Pickard Street needed to have its story told. 
The Downing’s are the second owners of the house built by Gilbert Johnson in what had been his mothers garden. It is where he married Ava Hoard and the home where the couple spent the rest of their lives. She is remembered as long time MHS business and typing teacher Ava Johnson. The Downing’s clearly love their well cared for home and shared some wonderful tales. As a former student of Ava Johnson, I was delighted with the stories that perhaps her spirit was still in residence…and that she was such a prankster. The Johnson-Downing home became a Halloween House Story in 2008.

Life was good for the Downings of Pickard Street in Marion, Michigan and at the Marion Public Library. I am saddened that Mary has left us too soon. My deepest condolences to Tom and her family. She was indeed a great gal.  



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