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.

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Mansfield Librarians: Miss Helen J. Fox

Helen Jennette Fox was born February 3, 1882, in Hayesville, Ashland County, Ohio to Joseph Benton Fox and Christiania Wallace.  Joseph Benton Fox was an insurance agent and moved to Mansfield, Ohio around 1897-98 according to Mansfield city directories.  Helen was the oldest of six children and the only girl.  Her brothers were Frederick H (b. 1883), Ralph D. (b. 1886), George W. (b 1891), Homer Eugene (b. 1893), and Leo Ronald (b. 1896).  Upon arriving in Mansfield, Helen began attending Mansfield High School and graduated in 1901.

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Record of Birth for Helen Jennette Fox

Miss Fox began working for the Mansfield Memorial Library in May of 1904.  She started when Miss Hedges resigned from her position as assistant librarian.  Mrs. Clara C. Carpenter, Chairman of the Committee on Library and Reading Room, stated in her 1904 annual report that Miss Fox “has shown in a marked degree her adaptability and fitness for the work.  Her earnestness and faithfulness we heartily commend.  Her whole heart seems to be in the work although her compensation is so trifling.”  Miss Fox continued her dedicated work under head librarian Miss Martha Mercer.  In 1905 she represented the library at a meeting for the State Library in Cleveland and, by 1912, was working full time.  In July of 1914, Miss Fox went to Chautauqua, New York and attended the Chautauqua Summer Library School.  This was a six-week course that instructed students on organization, administration, cataloging, and reference skills.

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Helen Jennette Fox

Miss Mercer retired as head librarian on September 1, 1914, and Miss Helen Fox was selected to take her place.  A number of services were added under Miss Fox and funds were obtained from the Richland County Commissioners to perform county work.  “Branch” collections were added to Bellville, Butler, Pavonia, Lexington, Lucas, Ontario, Shiloh, and three county schools.  In addition to this, city branches were added to two fire departments, three schools, and the YMCA.  After much discussion, the librarian’s salary was raised to $840 annually in 1917 from $780 in previous years.

During World War I, the library collected books to be sent to troops.  Some were sent to Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio for which the library received a letter of appreciation from Camp Librarian Burton E. Stevenson.  The library had to temporarily close in 1918 due to the spread of Spanish influenza.  Miss Fox continued to expand the reach of the library and in 1921 collections were added to the Ohio State Reformatory, the County Infirmary, and Mansfield General Hospital.  The library struggled to provide services and it was recommended that the library become a school district library since the city was unable to provide a large enough budget.  This helped immediately and, in 1925, the library was redecorated and new stacks were purchased.  The following year, more stacks and new typewriters were purchased.

1927 saw the hiring of the first trained children’s librarian, Miss Helen S. Keeting, whom the Children’s Room is dedicated to today.  The following year, the first Summer Reading Program was introduced with the theme “Travel Tour through Europe.”  Thirty children completed the program in the first year.   In addition to the work done to improve the library, Miss Fox was also involved in many civic organizations, including the Fortnight Club and the Business and Professional Women’s Club.  She also served as vice president of the Ohio State Library Association.

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Upon leaving for work on the morning of January 2, 1931, Miss Helen Fox died due to a cerebral hemorrhage.  Her death came as a shock to her friends and family as news spread quickly throughout the city.  At the young age of 48, Miss Fox had dedicated almost 27 years to the Mansfield Library.  Miss Gladys Nichols was placed in charge of the library until a replacement was found.  On Monday, January 5, 1931, services were held at the First Presbyterian Church conducted by Rev. Dr. A. M. Hughes.  Members of the library board, both past and present, attended the funeral as a group.  Helen Jennette Fox was buried in the Mansfield cemetery.