This morning, I’ll pack up my iPad with its built-in camera and drive the whole five blocks (Florida is hot, sticky, and humid this time of year) to the Pinellas Park Public Library.
SORRY! It’s now the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library, named for a great lady who first came to work for our city in 1978, and stayed to work her way up the city’s corporate ladder. She served as Assistant Library Director, Library Director, and, finally, Community Activities Administrator.
She not only worked for our city, but with our city and other Tampa Bay area communities till she retired in 2008.
Barbara passed away in June 2013, and her influence on our community was so great that the City of Pinellas Park decided to rededicate the library in her name, and today’s the day it happens.
Barbara’s family, friends, co-workers, and admirers will gather in and around the library and pay respectful tribute to someone really remarkable.
And while the respect will be genuine, there will be a lot of laughter, too. Tim Caddell will be the emcee, after all, and his humor is intertwined with every public presentation he makes.
Most of us who knew Barbara for any length of time were impressed not only with her hard work and dedication to making our Library a wonderful literary oasis, but also with her humor.
Many were the hours we’d swap jokes, trying to one-up each other with plays on words, unexpected twists, and plainly bawdy offerings.
We had lots of opportunity for joke-swapping: I hosted a local cable show featuring city news, and the library had a regular segment that involved me interviewing Barbara about whatever was going on in and around the stacks.
The first time Barbara appeared on the show, she was understandably a little nervous. Talking for a TV audience is different from talking to a group of library patrons. I spent a few minutes before the show trading jokes with Barbara, and by the time we went live, she was doing just fine.
Or so I thought.
You know how sometimes you get nervous and you say things that don’t come out quite the way you expect? Happened that night to Barbara.
“So,” I said to her about 30 seconds into our 8-minute segment, “I understand that the Pinellas Park Art Society is using the library as a sort-of extended gallery, hanging original art in your meeting room. Tell us a little about that.”
Barbara nodded, acknowledging my comment. She took a breath and smiled. She had plenty of grist for this conversational mill, knowing just how the artists were selected, and how carefully the exhibit had been planned. Barbara was here to give a boost to our local culture.
She looked right into the camera and with absolute clarity told God and everybody,
“Oh, yes, Billie! Many of our artists in Pinellas Park are well hung!”
My eyes went wide open, and as the import of her bungled opening line hit Barbara’s brain, I could see the panic rise!
I did the only thing I could think of, and gave my director a near-heart attack by looking at my camera and announcing, “And we’ll learn more about hanging exhibits at the Library right after this!”
We barely made it to the break before Barbara and I both burst out laughing.
So no matter how solemn the day’s dedication will be today, it’s the fun stuff I’ll be thinking about.
Miss you, Barbara.
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