The patrons at Phoenixville Public Library have changed during the years.
So have the services.
Some people were regular visitors eons ago. Today, many people - homespun and foreigners - learning English are the norm.
Computers and a research librarian's expertise are on tap. Recently, on the phone, I heard a recorded voice offering six options originating at "la biblioteca."
The 1901 building at Second Avenue and Main Street is valued for its architecture, programs for children, lectures for adults, plus more.
But, something unique happened on Oct. 21, 2003 - a memorial service for a steadfast book-lover, Hazel.
She was a steady visitor for countless years. Often dressed in dark blue and gray, owning a low, but pleasing voice, the elderly woman chose the table near the gargantuan grandfather's clock.
Director John Kelley's cute daughter, Erin, dubbed her "The Clock Lady."
Many people grew so accustomed to seeing my subject pouring over several newspapers, chuckling at a funny anecdote, that eventually conversations erupted. Hazel created friendships and achieved status.
Employee Richard R. Taylor said, "She was at her place from the time the library opened to the time it closed."
"Once she wasn't there for a week, and everybody was worried about her," Taylor said. "We didn't know her last name."
About that name.
Hazel thanked me for writing this column in The Phoenix, but didn't want her name used as a reference.
"Don't put my name in the paper," she said. I didn't.
Her mourners knew "The Clock Lady" ate at Boston Market on Samuel Nutt Road as often as she frequented Kelley's Mansion on Second Avenue and Main Street.
She offered coupons and an interpretation of the restaurant's gift-card receipt to those gathered at her special table near the coffee bar. Waitresses on their break joined her.
Listeners learned that Hazel was divorced, had traveled widely with her Air Force husband and had no children. Her speech was peppered with invectives about local events, national policies.
"The Patriot Act, should be called the Putrid Act," she suggested. (Sometimes, when I stopped at the market, I didn't talk to her. Her sad dark eyes deterred me.)
One man, at the memorial service, revealed how Hazel consoled me after his beloved mother died. A woman stuttered as she wept, "She was like a mother to me."
Our lady helped new residents struggling with English learn American phrases and slang.
Emphysema plagued the library lady and watchers witnessed her gasping spasms near her car or at the Second Avenue side of the Phoenixville Library.
John Kelley said that the library lady sometimes helped with events such as the annual Book Sale. She gave articles concerning book business to the attention of employees.
Heidi Smith, an e-mailer, shared a story she found on the Web site with Hazel: "The Lesson of the Geese."
Geese fly in formation for a reason. When they flap their wings, it creates an updraft which helps them along. Their constant honking is an encouragement to each other to keep going.
The lesson that people can get from geese is: If we have a kind word or a smile for people, it creates an updraft which helps them along.
Life is fragile, and each day is a gift from God. We need to value each person.
Smith said, "Hazel was visibly moved by the story."
A pastel scene of geese flying under a rainbow was pictured on the memorial card that 50 people, including Hazel's sisters, three, from California and Canada, attended
She was found, dead at 72, in her room at Prima Motel, Bridge Street, Phoenixville.
The Clock Lady
Connie Bretz &Copy;2003
She found refuge
at her Carnegie Corner
near Grandfather's clock
as she spent
time with Time:
Roses, red, marked
after she left.
With Valentine love and red roses, Keystone Connie, call 610 933-0669.