NASHVILLE — Most mornings, Tesh Wickard could be found sprawled in a comfortable chair near the fireplace at the Brown County Public Library, reading the newspapers and magazines or chatting with friends.
“The library was like an extension of his living room,” longtime friend Cynthia Miller said of the 22-year Hauser High School teacher.
That’s why she was not surprised when Wickard, who died in 2014 at age 90, left his $2.3 million estate to the public library, in an endowment to be used primarily for improvements or maintenance.
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It is the largest single donation ever made to the Brown County Public Library, according to the Brown County Community Foundation, which handled many of the gifts when the library was built.
Wickard was born into an old, prominent Indiana family, the son of Solomon and Faith Tesh Wickard. His early years were spent on the family farm, attending school in nearby Logansport. His university years at Indiana University were interrupted by World War II, when he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater, according to his obituary.
At war’s end, Wickard returned to IU to finish his degree in business, later going on to earn a master’s degree in economics. After graduation he worked at Eli Lilly Co. in Indianapolis, then turned to a career in teaching. Wickard taught at Culver (Indiana) Military Academy, then moved to Hope, where he taught business courses at Hauser High School from 1961-83. A talented dancer, he also was a member of a popular dance group in Indianapolis.
On retirement, Wickard — an avid reader — moved to Nashville, where he became a strong supporter of the public library, where he made himself at home, often sitting with one leg thrown over the arm of his favorite chair.
The endowment, which was incorporated last summer, is set up so that only interest earned can be used, the principal is never touched and the funds will be ongoing, library trustees said. Spending will be the responsibility of the public library board of trustees, with oversight from the Wickard endowment board.
One of the first projects planned is to modernize and revamp the checkout area at the front of the library, library board of trustees member Bob Gustin said.
“Tesh Wickard’s gift builds on the history of generosity from the community that allowed Brown County to build such a beautiful and functional library,” said Kathy Roberts, president of the library board of trustees. “It also seems fitting that Tesh was a quiet, but consistent, patron of the library, because his gift will ensure the vital, but often unseen, maintenance of our library long into the future.”
“He worked in education all his life,” Miller said, “and education requires good libraries. He saw that aspect of it, too.”
Miller and her husband Bob are executors of Wickard’s estate. She said in a news release that while he was careful with his money, he loved to be surrounded by beautiful antiques and art, and he became quite knowledgeable in Asian artifacts. Expensive automobiles were an extravagance he allowed himself.
“We also loved his cars and when he got a new one we would go outside to look,” retired library director Yvonne Oliger said.
He told Lucy Pruitt he read People Magazine to keep up with popular culture. Diana Wright said Wickard also loved looking at books describing beautiful homes like “Hollywood Homes” or homes with elegant décor.
“Sometimes we would go back to the reading area and he would be slouched all over a chair just like he was home,” Oliger said.
“That was his greatest gift to all of us. He thought the library was home.”
What: A celebration of Tesh Wickard.
When: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, presentation at 2 p.m.
Why: To mark the donation of an endowment of more than $2.3 million to the Brown County Public Library. The Ken and Helen Reeve Genealogical Research Collection also will be celebrated.
Who: The public is invited. Light refreshments will be served.