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Column: Making memories ... Painting, a remembrance for librarian

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IN all, Wilma Perry spent 37 years at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

The last few years were on a part-time basis as she had to take time off to be treated for the cancer that at the end had been her companion for 15 years. She lost her battle with the disease in September.

She knew a lot of people through her time at the library, but they likely were only a portion of all those she touched. There was quite a crowd at calling hours prior to her funeral.

“I could hardly get inside the door, there were so many people,” said Janet Bierlein, one of Perry’s co-workers.

Perry had touched so many people that library officials decided there should be some form of remembrance placed in the building in her honor. Ironically, they chose a visual element.

This past week, the staff unveiled a print of a Marie Goth painting, titled simply “Peonies.” The work by one of the members of the original Brown County art colony was of a colorful flower, one that came to be adopted as the official state flower.

“We have a number of tribute programs at the library,” said Teresa Reynolds, who had worked for several years with Perry in the business office. “A lot of times, we have dedicated a special book in someone’s memory, but we wanted to do something for Wilma that would be more enduring than a book.”

“It just seemed to be a natural choice,” said Beth Booth Poor, director of the library. “We hung it in a natural place, the Indiana Room. It fit Wilma since she lived her whole life in this area.”

The choice of a painting to honor Perry was somewhat ironic when considering that a good part of her career was spent in the Talking Books program at the library. The primary beneficiaries of the program were those who were visually challenged.

“Wilma didn’t just hand out tapes,” Booth Poor said. “She came to know her users well. People just liked to deal with her because she was so friendly, so funny. It was a personal thing for her.”

It was a quality that spilled over into her relations with her co-workers.

“Wilma was simply a super person,” Teresa Reynolds said. “She was one of those people who knew how to make things happen. If there was anything you needed, she was always there.”

In a physical sense, Perry no longer is in the library.

However, there is now a painting of the state flower in the Indiana Room.

Those who knew Perry, who worked with her, were served by her will have that to remember her by.

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