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Dec 29, 2015 — How do you say goodbye to an old friend, a grandfatherly figure, a part-time comedian, and one of the biggest cheerleaders I have ever had in my life, other than my parents and husband? I suppose if I knew the answer to that question I wouldn’t be asking it but sometimes it really helps me to think out loud about life, love, and the people in our lives that really matter.
One of those people in my life and in all the lives of those that have come and gone here at the Daviess County Public Library is Bill Shelton. He has been our custodian extraordinaire since, well, forever it seems. Bill has worked at the library for approximately 47 years and has the distinction of being the only employee ever to stay here for that long a period of time.
Bill is a man of the people and I mean of all the people. He can sit down and talk with anybody from rich to poor and anyone in between. He has been a fixture here at the library for so long that it feels as if he is part of the buildings almost. When I say buildings, I literally mean that Bill also has the distinction of being the only person still working here that has worked in every public library building here in Owensboro since the library was started. I know he has told me stories about being in the original Carnegie library that for years now has housed the Owensboro Fine Arts Museum at Ninth and Frederica streets. He also worked the majority of the time that the second library building was in place at 450 Griffith Avenue from 1968 to 2007. Finally, in late summer of 2007, he would move with us once again to our new location at 2020 Frederica Street. We now have been in this location 8 years and so has Bill.
So, what else is there to know about Bill Shelton? Well, most of us know Bill as a great story-teller throughout the years and someone who tells wonderful jokes. Over the years, I have known Bill to be someone who can instantly lift you out of the doldrums of the day just by telling a funny story or asking you how your life is going. I know that he has been one of my closest confidants and supporters throughout my 22 years here at DCPL.
As a youngster in college starting out here back in 1990, I had no idea what to expect working in a library environment. I was young and naïve and didn’t know as much about the world as I thought I did. I quickly learned on those many evenings I worked as a part-time student page that break-time was one of the best times of the night. Why? Bill Shelton and his wife, Jane, kept me and many others in stitches by telling the funniest of jokes and helping us, just for a brief shining moment, to forget about all of our troubles and our dealings with an interesting public at times.
Without Bill here to help me get through some stressful and trying times, I’m not sure what I would have done. Bill has been a part of the fabric here at the library for so long and it’s going to be very hard to imagine this place without him. Every time I hear the elevator doors open and hear a cart passing over the threshold, I will think of Bill. Each time I hear laughter emanating from the stacks or a public service desk in the building, I will know it was Bill telling a joke or a story. Every time I hear the vacuum cleaner roar to life, I will remember him dutifully going over the front lobby area and hauling it up and down the stairs to make sure that the treads were cleaned. Each time we get ready to close up for the evening and we walk together to clock out of the building and lock up for the night, I will remember him as one of the most wonderful men that entered my life and that I am so grateful to have had the pleasure of knowing him.
So, how do you say goodbye to someone like this? Truthfully, you don’t. You hug them tightly, wish them all the very best that life can give them and remember forever all of the things that made them such a special person on this planet. Nothing else really matters in this life.
Bill Shelton, thank you for being a true friend, comforter, cheerleader, life guide and surrogate grandfather. I will treasure you always for everything you have done for me and I will never, ever forget you as long as I live….
Christy V. Temple