Another Collection of a Lifetime | Newberry

Another Collection of a Lifetime

We have as many interesting donors as we have interesting volunteers.

I’ll call her Alberita, which actually was her name, but I’ll leave it at that. If you knew Alberita you know whom I’m discussing, and if you don’t the last name doesn’t matter. She called me up to ask if someone could pick up her books from one of the city’s finest senior centers.

Alberita was sort of an unpaid sales rep for the place; she met all applicants at the door and all prospective applicants and even not-so-prospective applicants. She told me that I was not too young to start considering where I wanted to live in retirement. I was then in my mad, youthful, impetuous mid-30s; Alberita had just turned 100. People had to listen when Alberita told them how great the place was. She’d lived there for over thirty years, herself.

Alberita was an editor at Rand McNally in her day, in the children’s division. One of the main celebrities she worked with was Marguerite Henry, author of Misty of Chincoteague and dozens of other equine novels for young people. She remembered for me the faux pas she made when she first met Marguerite Henry, before a publicity event, asking the man with her if he was Mr. Henry. He was, as he informed her in no uncertain terms, Wesley Dennis, the great painter of horses who illustrated the Chincoteague books.

The celebrity connection aside, it was an amazing thing to take up Alberita’s books, because she was also passing along the books that she’d inherited from her FATHER. Here I stood, handling a children’s book published in 1856 which had had just two owners, and the second of those owners was looking on.

It was a grand collection, and great fun. (All the letters she had from Marguerite Henry, including one with Misty’s hoofprint on it, went into the Newberry collection.) We went back a year later when Alberita, now 101, realized she had a few more shelves of books to dispose of. But the kicker came a few months after that.

Alberita called me to be sure I sent her a receipt. She was doing her taxes and wanted all the paperwork handy. If there are taxes when I’m 101, I hope I can do my own. (The IRS hopes I’ll have learned how by then.)

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