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October 21, 1997

Big folks in the Perry area will have their own Halloween celebration next Saturday night, October 25, in the old Elite Hotel building on the north side of the square. The spooky event is sponsored by the Perry Main Street organization, and it will serve as one of their principal fund-raisers of this year. The party will start at 8 p.m. and will close, appropriately, at the witching hour -- midnight. In between will be what they call ghoulish refreshments, ghostly entertainment, spook dancing, and rewards for best costumes. (Costumes are optional; street clothes will be just fine, too.) Advance tickets are available at the Main Street office in the Foucart building at $20 each or $35 for couples. This will be a good opportunity to see the old Elite building before it is converted to a bed and breakfast or conventional hotel.

Personal remembrances and tributes galore have been pouring into the Oklahoma Department of Libraries since the death earlier this year of Esther Mae Henke, a gentle and gentile Orlando lady who capably served the ODL for 30 years until her retirement in 1983. The department's periodic newsletter, ODL Source, contains a special section honoring Miss Henke this month.

Miss Henke began her career as a bookmobile librarian in Richmond, MO, but in 1953 she joined the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. At the time of her retirement, she was associate director of ODL's Library Services Branch, and she was well known to public librarians throughout the state. According to the Source, Miss Henke was instrumental in developing Oklahoma's multi-county library systems. She was responsible for the management of state and federal public library funds, new building construction, and statewide library consultation services.

"She won numerous awards and accolades for her support of public library development," the newsletter continues. In 1966 she received the "outstanding woman of the year" award from the Theta Sigma Phi Byliners. She won the, Oklahoma Library Association's distinguished service award in 1971. Gov. George Nigh declared Dec. 2, 1983, "Esther Mae Henke Day" in Oklahoma to recognize her contribution to the state. She also had visibility on a national level. Carl Albert, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, appointed her in 1979 to serve on the advisory council to plan the White House Conference on Library and Information Services.

A former colleague recalls how much Miss Henke loved Oklahoma and her hometown, Orlando. She often took neighborhood children on camping trips, but as part of the bargain the youngsters had to memorize and recite the names of all 77 Oklahoma counties.

When she retired from ODL, she had achieved one of her primary goals: At least one publicly-supported library in every Oklahoma county. Oklahoma citizens continue to benefit from the library programs, projects and dreams of Esther Mae Henke.