Saturday, December 03, 2005

Passion for books .....

On An Overgrown Path is about passion more than anything else. Passion for music, passion for live performance, passion for books, passion for art, passion for excellence, and above all passion for passion.

Carol Murchie, who contributed the excellent guest blog A year with the symphony back in the summer, brought the following inspirational piece about one lady's passion for books to my attention. The article is copyright the Boston Globe where the original can be found.

Margaret Osmond, 98; librarian who lived flamboyantly

In her dramatic capes and turbans, with her theatrical voice and her beauty, Margaret Osmond was a glamorous presence in Plymouth for years, 31 of them as librarian in the Plymouth Public Library.

''She put Bette Davis in the shade," the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, minister at Harvard's Memorial Church, who worked with her at the library as a Plymouth high school student, said yesterday. ''She was Auntie Mame before any of us knew who Auntie Mame was. She was the life of the party and, for a rector's daughter to behave that way in those times, it was scandalous."

Ms. Osmond, a free spirit who traveled to every continent except Antarctica at a time when single women didn't usually travel and who once acted on the Broadway stage, died Nov. 3 at Newfield House in Plymouth. She was 98.

''Maggie was a pistol," said Ruth Kowal, chief of operations for the Boston Public Library and director of the Plymouth library when Ms. Osmond was there. ''She was a ball of fire. In her 60s, she became a fan of Janis Joplin."

Lee Regan, a Plymouth librarian, was a child when she first met Ms. Osmond on trips to the library with her mother.

''Margaret knew each person and the kind of books they liked and would be ready with suggestions as soon as they walked in the door. She was the ultimate librarian. She had a theatrical presence, but in the library she was stately and graceful," she said.

Nonetheless, said Margie Holmes of Plymouth, who worked with Ms. Osmond at the library, ''she was quite exotic-looking for Plymouth."

As a boy shelving books at the library from 1959 to 1961, Gomes thought Ms. Osmond was ''the most exotic woman I had ever seen."

''She had been in New York and Canada and was a clergyman's daughter. She spoke with large gestures and wore jewels and huge earrings, unusual for a librarian. Of all the librarians, though, she seemed to be the only one who had read the books. People would come in and she would know what they would like."

Outside the library, Ms. Osmond was flamboyant. ''She was a real character," said her cousin Sally Cheek of Boston. ''She enjoyed her younger years going to parties and socializing. She was very interested in people and would remember the details of their lives."

Ms. Osmond never married. Traveling was her ''favorite thing," Creek said, adding that her cousin hadn't minded being alone when traveling and eating in restaurants. ''She was outgoing, extremely independent, and self-reliant."

Ms. Osmond always sent postcards to the library from her travels, Gomes recalled. ''There'd be pictures of her standing by a camel or between two Bedouins."
Once she went to London for a royal celebration and brought back commemorative beads for friends, much like those tossed to the crowds in Mardi Gras.

As a young woman, she once had planned to travel to Russia, but somehow landed in Poland -- until she got a ride to Russia from a Polish truck driver.

''Margaret introduced me to George magazine," Gomes said, referring to the publication launched by John F. Kennedy Jr. ''She said, 'You must read this marvelous magazine,' and she made our local news store stock it."

Gomes recalled being invited as a young man to cocktail parties given by Ms. Osmond and ''her Roaring '20s friends," a group of independent-minded women, some of them married. Anne Smith of Plymouth said her mother, Marjorie Loft, was among them.

''On the spur of the moment, the group would go off to the beach, or they would have theme parties where people had to come dressed like characters in a book. . . . Maggie had a way of making people feel good about themselves," Smith said.

Ms. Osmond never lost her love for the theater. While working in the library, she would take Thursdays off because it was matinee day in Boston.

Born in Baltimore, she was the only child of a Maryland woman and an Episcopalian minister who had come from England to attend theological school. The family moved around somewhat to his various pulpits and what would be his last in Plymouth in 1922. She studied theater at Vassar College and graduated in 1930.

Friends and family believed she began her theatrical career on Broadway and traveled with repertory companies to South America and Canada. After the death of her father in 1931, she returned to Plymouth in the late 1940s to care for her mother. She started working at the library part time, and then full time. After she retired in 1977, she went to work for a Plymouth travel agency, which afforded her more chances to travel.

Ms. Osmond ''continued to be quite beautiful" as she aged, her cousin said. ''She wore bright red lipstick into her 80s. She was healthy all her life and ate and drank whatever she wanted. She kept trim by walking. She traveled into her 80s and lived on her own until she was 94." She read two newspapers a day and the weekly New Yorker magazine.

Besides Cheek, she leaves three other cousins, all of Baltimore.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 10 in Christ Church, Episcopal, where Ms. Osmond's father was once rector. Gomes will conduct the service and give the eulogy.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Margaret Osmond would have rolled her kohl-rimmed eyes and waved her bejeweled fingers at the thought of being blogged.