In 2001, Family Fundamentals and Success by Six, ably led by Marsha West, needed a resource library. Hearing that a retired professional librarian was volunteering at Lakeland Public Library, Mark LeMaire, volunteer coordinator for United Way Lakeland, contacted me, and so began a wonderful experience for me. 

While we had no budget for a library, we had a plentitude of bookshelves, reading tables, chairs and boxes and crates filled with donated books. We'd make a resource library happen! 

One morning as I busied myself selecting "keep and catalog" titles from a heap of donated books, I noticed a quiet gentleman standing in the doorway watching me. When he noticed that I saw him, he approached smiling, eyes a-twinkle, and said, "I heard that a retired librarian was setting up a library from scratch in here." "Yep, I'm that guy," I laughed. 

After introducing myself, my visitor gave me another smile and said, "I'm Buddy Fletcher, the mayor of Lakeland." That last part made me pay closer attention as we talked about my plans and how our library would serve children and adults seeking parental guidance materials. 

He then asked me, "What do you find most rewarding in your volunteer work?" Taken aback by his interest, I haltingly said that I liked meeting and associating with people who had positive attitudes, people who made things happen, people who wished to be helpful, and, too, it made me feel useful. He chuckled and confided that my feelings were much how he felt about serving as mayor. 

Saying he'd interrupted me long enough, he left, after promising to stop and see me again. He did a couple of times and managed to lay on some encouragement. And, yes, he did get to see the completed resource library. 

With the passing of Ralph L. "Buddy" Fletcher, we have lost a caring champion. 

Lance C. Finney

Auburndale