With the first quarter of school under their belts, students have had time to enjoy the wonderful changes in the library at St. Francis Borgia Grade School. What’s not to like in the renovated space with its soft blue-gray walls embellished with bookish murals and wise words, refinished check-out desk, and furniture placed in more user friendly spots, improving the flow of traffic when children enter to check out materials.

Librarian Margaret Holtmeier is thrilled with the attractive overhaul, and Ruthie would have been too — the late Ruthie Sullentrup that is. She passed away in February 2016, leaving the library a treasured gift, a monetary present that was used to spruce up the space and buy books, a lifetime love of Ruthie’s.

How I Knew Her

I knew about Ruthie’s passion for literacy from personal experience. In years past, I so enjoyed talking with Ruthie when she’d bring her little pencil-written Christmas list to the annual Book Buzz Hive Cleaning Sale sponsored by The Missourian in the fall. The sale was a way to offer new hardcover review copies of books to the public, books that are now donated to the Little Free Libraries around Washington, and other worthy places.

(This year’s books will go to a library in Houston destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.)

Every Hive Cleaning Sale, Ruthie, always smiling and so attractive with her white hair, would come in with her long list, and ask me to help her choose books for the little ones in her family, and she had a slew — all due to receive the books for Christmas. Believe me, a lot of care, thought and conversation went into her choices.

A Memorable Day

The last time I saw Ruthie was at The Missourian office; she was all decked out in red, her favorite color and looking dapper as always. Her daughter Gwen Mauntel brought her by to pick up some picture books.

The three of us walked through the meandering innards of the office to the back room in the basement where the Book Buzz Books are shelved and distributed. We sat there thumbing through them, laughing and talking as we read together. It was an occasion I still cherish — book lovers bonding over stories.

Several months later, while I was in Florida, my heart sank when I read The Missourian online, and noticed Ruthie’s obituary. How I wished I’d been in town to pay my respects to this lovely book lady.

A Lasting Legacy

One can only imagine how Ruthie would have appreciated the makeover at the library, a real group project, Margaret said, many people working together to get the job done, including Ruthie’s son, Greg Sullentrup, an artist, who added his creative design touches. Margaret spearheaded the effort with a mission in mind —she wanted the library to be “more welcoming, brighter and less cluttered.”

The walls are highlighted with quotes applied by Beth Roetheli, a Borgia parishioner and SFB alumna. Worn flooring was replaced, new shelving was added, and bright carpet squares were purchased so children can sit comfortably at story time.

Of course, a library is nothing without great books, and Ruthie’s gift also provided funds to buy more than 100 — nonfiction, biography, and titles on the arts, diversity and inclusion.

Each “Ruthie Read” bears a book plate with the following inscription: “Donated in memory of Ruthie Eckelkamp Sullentrup, a loving mom and granny, a lifelong Washington resident, a dedicated parishioner and Borgia graduate, a proud American, who loved reading and the color red.”

Page On, kids — and never forget your wonderful benefactor. I sure won’t.