Mansfield Librarians: Mildred Carolyn Furry

Mildred Carolyn Furry was born on July 31, 1908, to Archibald Beach Furry and Carrie Metzger in New Enterprise, Bedford, Pennsylvania.  Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Johnstown, Pennsylvania where Archibald, or Arch as he was known, worked in the steel mill.  Mildred’s uncle, Lorenzo Furry, was a teacher and later supervisor of the public schools in Johnstown. This is most likely where Mildred got her love of education.  Arch and Lorenzo shared a duplex for many years at 624-626 Somerset St. in Johnstown, Pa.  In 1924 Mildred, known as “Mig” in her yearbook, graduated from Greater Johnstown High School with her cousin, Lorenzo’s daughter, Mary, who would also become a teacher. A short time later, Mildred enrolled in Ashland College, today Ashland University.  Her roommate while at Ashland was Maude Edwards.  Maude and Mildred would often take weekend trips up to see Maude’s parents near Medina, Ohio.  Miss Edwards would teach at Shiloh High School and later in Brunswick, Ohio.  She became one of the first female high school principals in Ohio.  Edwards Middle School, recently razed, in Brunswick was named in her honor.  Mildred graduated from Ashland in 1928 with a degree in teaching.

1924 Greater Johnstown High School Yearbook
624-626 Somerset St. Johnstown, Pa. From Google Maps

Miss Furry began work immediately in the New Haven township schools teaching English and home economics.  In the early 1930s, Mildred would return home to Johnstown, Pa., living with her parents and teaching at Cochran Junior High School.  During this time, she also earned her master’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.  On June 29, 1944, Mildred entered the United States Naval Reserve.  The Women’s branch of the Naval Reserve was created in July of 1942 to release officers and men for sea duty.  The Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES, served in 900 stations across the U.S.  Mildred served in Miami in the 7th Naval District.  Mildred left active service on February 8, 1946.  When her service ended, Mildred returned to Ashland College becoming dean of women.  In 1952 it was reported that Mildred was enrolled in Western Reserve University and that she would receive her “master of science in library science [that] summer.”

1952 was also the year Charles Kelley King died and left his estate to the private foundation which operates Kingwood Center today.  King had wanted a library to be established which contained materials related to the activities of Kingwood Center.  It was clear they would need a librarian to establish a collection and help visitors with research.  Miss Furry was hired on June 30, 1953, as the first librarian at Kingwood Center.  King had left a collection of books on gardening and birds and Miss Furry quickly added to the collection by purchasing the library of James Vick of Rochester, N. Y.  Vick was a pioneer of “retail catalog distribution of seeds and plants.”  Allene Holt Gramly notes, in Kingwood Center, The legacy of Charles Kelley King, published in 1988, that the library contained over seven thousand volumes.  Miss Furry gave talks and presented programs regularly about the work being done by the library and Kingwood Center.

Arthur P. Petit (1962) and Mildred C. Petit (1973) Ashland College Yearbook (Pine Whispers)

On December 28, 1956, Miss Furry married Arthur P. Petit, director of admissions at Ashland College.  The marriage was short as Arthur P. Petit died at the age of 58 after suffering a heart attack on May 7, 1962.  On September 1, 1964, Mildred Petit once again returned to Ashland College, this time as an associate librarian.  She would also curate the special books collection at the college.  Mildred Petit retired in 1975 and shared a residence in Ashland with her old college roommate Maude Edwards, who had never married and retired a few years earlier.  Maude Edwards died on August 27, 1983, followed by Mildred Petit on December 12, 1985.