If you think about it, we connect with many wonderful folks throughout our lifetimes. The influence could be because of the other person's occupation (a doctor; minister...); perhaps a volunteer service (Friends of the Library; Red Cross...) church or other associations; yet overall, the person connects because of a good thing and Mary Ward Wilkins is one fabulous little lady full of bonds and ties.

I for one am delighted I connected with Mary because I have been thrilled knowing this gal from day one. I met Mary when I was in my early 30s - not long ago! Okay, it was over 30 years ago, but it seems like just yesterday. Our paths have crossed several times throughout the years, usually because both of us are librarians. Mary spent 12 years as the Linden Public Library's librarian where she had many fabulous things going on for her patrons. She especially loved story hours and was often asked to the grad schools to read and share her enthusiasm for the word.

It all goes back to when Mary was on the Linden library board and one of the other board members, Lavern Lutes said, "Mary Isabel, our wonderful librarian, Ruth White, is retiring. So, we need a new librarian and I think you'd be a great one!" Growing up in the Linden area, the daughter of Homer and Myrtle Everson Ward, she was a daughter of a farmer. She always enjoyed a good read, loved kids, was great at bookkeeping, fabulous with people; thus, it was natural for Mary to step into heading-up the Linden Public Library. Lavern was certainly correct in her choice.

Clint Wilkins and Mary Isabel Ward grew-up together, but really didn't date seriously until after graduation. Clint went to the service flying B-24s. Part of this time, Mary worked at Ft. Benjamin Harrison while Clint was stationed in Kentucky. He'd stop on his way back to Linden and picked her up. The couple married in the St. Bernard's rectory in August of 1947. Three exceptional children, now living nearby blessed the household. Mary's eyes twinkle when she talks about Belinda, Kelly and C.K. and literally sparkled when she told me about the three granddaughters, Hannah Runnels of Ft. Collins, Colo.; Kelly just graduated from McCutcheon and starting her nursing career at Valparaiso, plus Camella who works at Cracker Barrel. Through their growing-up years, the Wilkins children were active in many organizations, but especially in scouting and canoe racing. Mary's family members revere her with great respect, just as I admire her, too.

One of Mary's philosophies is to be a busy bee, to not sit at home idle but to accomplish something. I've mentioned some of Mary's achievements already but here's more. She has been an active member of the Art League since 1955; American Legion Auxiliary; Linden Women's Club for many years, Linden United Methodist Church for over six decades and Four M's, a group of women who meet the second Thursday of the month for a fun potluck dinner, then make bibs, clothes and precious dolls for St. Elizabeth Hospital. She mentioned another of my favorite gals when discussing this group.

Recently, when Mary had a bout with cancer, she received a gorgeous afghan from Betty Armstrong because, "You'll need to keep those shoulders warm!" Betty is the pro painter of the doll faces mentioned above.

I do so love Mary's enthusiasm for life. So many little things touch her soul, the flit of a hummingbird, the hug of a friend, but I want to leave you with this nifty story she shared with me. As I noted earlier, she was a farm girl. There was no electricity, inside water or bathrooms in her childhood home, really no conveniences whatsoever. When the REMC folks came to put electricity into their home, she said there was one bulb in the middle of each room. The first night, the family turned all the lights on in the house, went out into the road, looked back and smiled and laughed! "It was remarkable, so beautiful." So is this little lady. Mary literally popped into my mind as a worthy recipient of this week's Around the County title. Love ya' Ms. Mary!