Lynne Blake talks about her mother, a longtime secretary of the Friends of the North Adams Public Library. The reading room has new wallpaper, rugs and furniture thanks to a donation from Gooch's estate.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Evelyn Gooch was a voracious reader who instilled her passion for reading in her children and grandchildren.
She'd send them several times a week to the library annex on Houghton Street to pick up books. Her daughter Lynne Blake recalled how they had to check the library cards to make sure her card number — X2820 — wasn't already stamped on them. She was greeted by the librarian one day with a stack of books from the main library that she was assured her mother hadn't read yet.
Then there was the time Gooch enrolled in a love-hate relationship with Columbia's Book of the Month Club. She wanted the books to stop but also wanted them to keep coming. Her family finally convinced her to cancel the club because she ran out of bookshelves.
"That was my library as a kid," said her granddaughter Jennifer Blake. "All the best sellers were there. She had retrieved the good ones from the, eh, not so good ones. And from that I became a voracious reader on a regular basis."
Her great-granddaughter Blake Meyer remembered the seven Harry Potter books always piled up next Gooch's chair.
"At the time when I was reading this book, she was 95 years old," Meyer said. "And those 86 years between us vanished when we would have conversations about characters, about which house we thought we were in, just hours and hours and those years just disappeared."
Her grandson Christopher Blake said her love for reading (mostly westerns and histories) was only matched by her love of reading about gossip, and he used to run down to the Corner Market on Sundays to pick up her Globe and Star scandal rags.
"I don't quite see that collection here," he laughed on Friday as he looked around at the redecorated reading room at the North Adams Public Library that was dedicated that was dedicated to his grandmother on Friday.
"This really shows how much of the impact that she's had over the years for you all," he said. "I just really didn't realize the expanse of this place and all that's offered here. It's really just a beautiful place and it has a lot to offer."
Mayor Jennifer Macksey was taken by how Gooch was a model for her family on the importance of the library and reading.
"That's kind of a lost art to some of our young people and we need to really focus on preserving that and instilling that in our youth," she said.
Evelyn Mossolani Gooch was 101 when she died on Oct. 6, 1918. The longtime secretary of the Friends of the North Adams Public Library was made an honored life-member in 2005 and the family donated $10,000 from her estate to benefit the library.
Conversations about how best to use the bequest turned to the idea of refreshing the reading room, once the front parlor of the historic Blackinton Mansion, and Leah Luczynski Interior Design was brought in to bring the vision to life. Lynne Blake said the family was part of the decision-making process and pleased with the outcome.
The interior moldings were painted and new blue wallpaper installed two years ago; the furniture's been stored up on the third floor waiting for the dedication.
"This project has been both a labor of love and an unintended obstacle, said Bonnie Rennell, president of the Friends. "Our new furniture was delivered to the library in Pittsfield, our wallpaper guy quit days before he was scheduled to begin ... We were already to go, programs were printed, the caterer was booked and COVID hit. We rescheduled a week later, printed new programs, and COVID came back."
Two long years later, Blake unveiled the plaque dedicating the reading parlor in her mother's memory: "One of life's greatest gifts is a passion for reading."
She thought the delay would have been taken in stride by her mother, whose own life straddled momentous events in history.
"My mother, she met challenges throughout her long life. She lived through 18 different presidents and seven wars. She was born a month after the U.S. entered World War One," she said. "Although she had no memory of it, she made it through her first flu pandemic when less than a year old. Mom was 12 when the stock market crashed in 1929. She and my dad married in 1938 as trouble was brewing in Europe. Mom delivered my sister Janice on Dec. 8, 1941, one day after the Pearl Harbor attack.
"So to have her original dedication postponed because of another pandemic is just another blip on the radar screen."
The donation, Blake continued, was not just to the library but to the city as well, as her mother saw them as complementing each other. She had regaled them with stories about growing up in North Adams and sang and danced as a teenager at the old Richmond Hotel, where she met her husband, Anthony, who died in 1989. She was a graduate of Drury High School and she worked at Sprague Electric until it closed in 1985.
"When she heard the potential of a possible museum she was hopeful. The idea to transform and modernize was more than she could wish. She didn't hesitate to donate funds for the restoration and was proud to have her name displayed on the wall at the entrance as a benefactor," Blake said. "She spent many hours collecting and sorting books for the annual book sale, which I know many of you can relate to. ...
"Our family hopes that this donation and recognition will inspire residents to contribute their time and/or money to the library to preserve the history of the library and keep alive my mother's legacy for generations to come. She would be touched, knowing that her memory and her passion for preservation are being honored today."
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