This blog is about a well loved local legend who has a unique history with our small town of Grantham. Her name is Joey Dunbar Holmes and here’s a small piece of her story:
In 1900, Joey’s great uncle Lorenzo donated money for a library in memory of his wife Ellen. The library was named The Dunbar Free Library. Eighty years later when Linda Moore was the librarian, Joey would check out books for patrons while Linda ran a story hour. That volunteer work led to Joey’s being hired as an assistant librarian. At the age of 86, Joey is currently the Assistant Director of Inter-Library Loans.
Joey grew up in a house next to the library where the parking lot sits today. After her mother passed away, the home was sold and eventually acquired by the library. A much needed addition was planned in 2009 which would mean that the homestead would have to go. The original plan called for clear cutting the lot with demolition of the house, barn, and outbuildings, and all the shrubs and trees.
Enter a Knight in Shining Armor--Andy Gelston. Andy is Joey’s fellow library staffer who “didn’t want Joey, the town matriarch, to have to witness her childhood home being smashed with an excavator and hauled off in dumpsters.” It took Andy and another local hero Otis TenHaken three months to dismantled the buildings. All the reusable wood was sold with the proceeds going to insurance (in case Andy or Otis fell off a roof) and to the library’s construction fund. Many people took advantage of the wood sale. Joey enjoyed speaking with the people who came in to the library to pay for their materials. To be honest, there were a few midnight requisitions. (I hope they got splinters.) I like to think of the wood from Joey’s well loved home being embedded in rooms and sheds all around town and beyond. (After the blog was posted, I heard from Janie Clark who wrote “I had not remembered it was Joey's house, but we too are enjoying part of it..... The huge rocks in the rock garden here are from the foundation of Joey's house. Matt Gallien moved them from the cellar hole to our garden.
The original clear cutting plan also included destroying the flowering crab apple tree that Joey had planted for her mother as a tiny sapling in 1957.
Despite his not being a restoration expert, Andy changed the plans to save the tree. That’s the tree that sits in the island outside the library to this day and is pictured here.
Like many of the gardeners’ homes I have visited, there are keepsakes and transplanted flowers to remind them of their earlier lives. When I interviewed Joey at her home, she pointed out the granite slab entrance to her house that once was the entrance to her home next to the library. Growing outside her window are the roses that bloomed outside her mother’s. Her favorite tree flourishes by the town library for her, and for all of us, to enjoy.