Book lover's fund is boost for young

The charity honoring ex-Mayor Lou Hannum's wife, Carolyn, will help a Jackson County Library outreach effort aimed at children
Former Medford Mayor Lou Hannum, 98, started a library fund in honor of his late wife, Carolyn Osgood Hannum. The fund has raised around $13,000 so far. Mail Tribune / Jamie LuschJamie Lusch

Not long after Navy officer Lou Hannum returned from World War II, he and his wife sat down and began reading a book together.

"We read aloud to each other," said Hannum, 98, of Medford. "I had just got back from the war. We were living in Akron, and our kids were small.

How you can help

To donate to the Carolyn Osgood Hannum Memorial Fund, checks payable to The Jackson County Library Foundation can be mailed to 205 S. Central Ave., Medford, OR 97501.

Donations also can be made online at www.jclf.org. Click on the Carolyn Osgood Hannum Memorial Fund icon.

Donations can be made via credit card by calling the foundation office at 541-774-6572.

"So we would spend evenings reading the book," he added. "Sometimes the kids would be around us or they would have already gone to bed. It took us a couple of months."

The book was "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. Reading the ponderous tome reflected the couple's shared love of books.

After Carolyn, his wife of 71 years, died Jan. 17 of this year, the former Medford mayor wanted to do something honoring the memory of the woman who worked as a librarian in Ohio and was a longtime volunteer with the Friends of the Medford Library.

Early last month, he and their three daughters created the Carolyn Osgood Hannum Memorial Fund. He contributed $5,000 in seed money and their daughters added another $1,000 to start the fund dedicated to supporting the Jackson County Library Services' outreach programs.

Some $13,000 already has been raised for the newly minted fund, with more than 60 donors contributing, according to Shelley Austin, executive director of the Jackson County Library Foundation.

The proceeds of the fund will be used at the discretion of the Medford library branch manager, with a focus on library outreach, she noted.

The fund is expected to help the Outreach to Child Care program, in which staff and volunteers deliver bags filled with age-appropriate books to child care homes and local centers each month, she said.

The foundation will celebrate the creation of the fund on Saturday, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Carolyn's birth, in the garden patio of the Medford library. The donors, family members, library staff and local dignitaries are invited.

"Carolyn was very active in the Friends of the Medford Library," Hannum said, noting that his wife volunteered with the group from 1975 until about 1990. "She loved books."

A native of White Plains, N.Y., his wife graduated from Akron University in Ohio and also received a bachelor's degree from Western Reserve Library School.

She worked as a children's librarian at Grosse Point Public Library in Michigan and served 12 years as a reference librarian at the public library in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

In 1981, she was named Volunteer of the Year by the Friends of the Medford Library, thanks to her efforts to increase book-sale proceeds from a little over $1,000 to more than $4,000 during her tenure as the group's book-sale coordinator, Austin noted.

"Carolyn knew that people who were used to reading supported the library," said her husband, a retired economist with the B.F. Goodrich Co. "But she also knew that a lot of people never supported the library because they never got used to reading. So she wanted to get them used to reading."

That's why she was an avid supporter of the library system's outreach programs.

"She wanted to make sure we were doing everything we could to reach out to those who didn't use the library, starting with kids," he said. "She knew that if they put books in child care areas for mothers who were working, those children would learn from those books. That helps prepare kids for school."

Born in 1915, Hannum nearly died from pneumonia and flu as a young child, resulting in his being kept in the house much of his childhood.

"For many years I was restricted from going outdoors from fall to spring, so I did a lot of reading," he said. "That always bothered me. I wanted to go outside and play football."

But he developed a lifelong love of reading.

"I started reading biographies when I was in grade school," he said. "I really think every book I ever read made some sort of difference to me over the years. One reason I've always read is because I wanted to stay sharp. Books help you do that."

Hannum hopes the fund will live on to promote the love of books he shared with his wife.

"A few days after she died, I was going through the telephone book, looking for something, and here were two handwritten pages — she had been writing her obituary," he said. "Right at the beginning, it said that if anyone wanted to give something in her name, it should go to the library.

"That confirmed to me that this fund would have made her happy," he added.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.


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