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Library staffer retires

DOTTIE THOMAS, left, Ohio County Public Library director, congratulates retiring employee Gail Bender of Martins Ferry at a party in the facility’s auditorium. Bender, 62, retired at the end of December after 43 years of service.

By LINDA COMINS

For The Times Leader

After 43 years of dedicated service at the Ohio County Public Library, Gail Bender’s career is officially “in the books.”

Bender, 62, retired from her position as a library clerk and shelver at the end of December. The Martins Ferry resident spent her entire working life at the Wheeling facility.

While looking forward to the perks of retirement, she is bittersweet about departing.

“I hate leaving the library. It’s been my home here,” she said.

Dottie Thomas, director of the library, said Bender had been a member of the staff longer than any other current employee. The clerk began work at the library in January 1976, at age 18.

“She has the best attendance record for any employee,” Thomas said, adding that Bender had 3,170 hours of accumulated sick leave to be used as credit toward her retirement benefits.

Prior to Bender’s departure, the library staff held a party in her honor with friends, library patrons and board members in attendance. Thomas presented a special plaque to Bender in recognition of her longtime service.

The retiree received a variety of gifts from her co-workers, including an iPad and case, many gift cards, a “retired” T-shirt in her favorite color — purple– and reserved seating for Martins Ferry High School’s Purple Riders games.

“I’ve been a Purple Rider for 33 years. I live in Purple Rider country,” she quipped.

At the library, Bender was responsible for putting books on the shelves in the correct order. During the course of a workday, she straightened the rows of books several times and worked in technical services.

“She has an important job. Thanks to Gail, the Ohio County Public Library has the neatest, most attractive shelves in the entire state,” Thomas said.

Along with offering a friendly greeting and engaging in conversation, “she always offers to help patrons find books,” the director added.

Thomas recalled that when she became the children’s librarian in 1987, “Gail made me feel at home. Gail makes everyone feel at home here at the Ohio County Public Library.”

When Thomas returned 10 years later as the new library director, “Gail was still putting books away and covering all the books. The Ohio County Public Library has the straightest shelves of any library in the world,” she said.

Jimmie McCamic, chair of the library’s board, lauded Bender’s cheerful nature and kindness. “We will miss you,” she said.

When McCamic moved back to Wheeling in 1984, “Gail had already been working eight years. … Gail was always here, and Gail always had an encouraging word,” the board chair said.

Bender also was an energetic employee. At times, she walked to work from Martins Ferry in the summer months, McCamic related.

Lori Nicholson, a 34-year employee and Bender’s immediate supervisor, said, “We’ve had good times, fun times … lots of memorable moments.

“She (Bender) is very friendly. She likes to talk and greet visitors as they are selecting books,” Nicholson said. “She is a very kind, loving and generous person. She makes friends with everyone.”

Describing her colleague, Nicholson added, “She has a heart of gold and will do anything for anyone.”

A reference to “the helpers” as cited by Fred Rogers “completely and totally describes Gail,” said library staff member Nannette Troyan. “She’s got your back. Gail has a heart of gold, and I really feel the library is going to be a little less sparkly without Gail.”

Elissa Gross, a frequent library patron from Wheeling, echoed the sentiments of all in attendance at Bender’s retirement party. “I am glad that the Ohio County Public Library is honoring the tenure of such a special person,” Gross said.