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Kathryn L. "Kitty" Smith

Published Tuesday, January 31, 2006 in the Lakeland Ledger
Haven Librarian Kitty Smith Dies

By Joy Cochran
The Ledger

WINTER HAVEN -- As much as she loved books, Kathryn Smith, the city's head librarian, also loved her family, fishing and Indiana University basketball.

"She was an avid angler," said T. Michael Stavres, director of Leisure Services and Smith's supervisor for the past five years. "Every summer she would go to Indiana to go fishing."

After realizing her 35-year anniversary with the city Saturday, Smith, who was known as Kitty and was head librarian for 33 years, died suddenly Sunday of heart failure. She was 76.

Smith became ill earlier in the month and had not been at work since Jan. 10, family members said.

As much as for her kindness and generosity, Smith will also be remembered for being stubborn, family members and coworkers said Monday.

"She had spirit and spunk," her daughter, Kelly Haviser of Bartow, said. "When she saw injustice, she could speak up. She would do it kindly."

"She used to say, `I'm feeling feisty today, watch out,' " said Pat Wike, who worked with Smith for 29 years.

Smith was a passionate person, Stavres said.

"If she had passion for something she saw it through," he said. "This library is an example of that."

Smith led the city through a five-year process of building a new library.

When the new facility opened in July 2004, Jan Pickos, a reference librarian who describes Smith as "very resolute," said she saw her boss of 15 years cry.

"The one time I saw her moved to tears, she called me out into the new library to see the new Tiffany lamps," Pickos said. "When I turned on all the lamps, she cried. Needless to say, we cried together." Most of all, both friends and family will miss Smith's willingness to put the problems of others before her own.

"She would jump through hoops to help any of us," Haviser said. "She was loving, caring and gentle. She would give you the shirt off her back."

Coworkers said she was also a great listener.

"She listened to you with her whole heart," said Jennifer Beard, adult services librarian. "I took advantage of that on an occasion or two."

Born Oct. 13, 1929, in Elwood, Ind., Kathryn Smith came to Winter Haven from Maysville, Ky., in 1956, when her husband, Ota L. "Smitty" Smith, who died in 1978, was transferred to Winter Haven to start the local Boys Club. Haviser said her mother initially worked as a substitute teacher.

Having earned an associate of arts degree from Columbia College of Missouri, and a bachelor of science in library science from the University of Indiana in 1951, Smith started working as a librarian for the city on Jan. 28, 1971.

Her mother's love of books went back to her childhood, Haviser said.

"It was like Mom was in a candy store at the library," she said. When she was a child she would hide under the blankets with a flashlight and read when her father said it was bedtime."

In a 1996 story, Smith cited "The Great Impersonation," by E. Phillips Oppenheim, as her favorite read.

"I keep reading this book over and over," Smith said at the time. "It's just that good. In the end, I still don't know who the person is."

Coworkers said Smith had an uncommon ability to efficiently operate the library while also accommodating the public's needs.

"She taught us all so much about being good supervisors and good librarians," said Debbie Couture, children's librarian.

"We'll have another city librarian," Stavres said. "We won't have another Kitty. That's because she was such a unique individual."

In addition to Haviser, Smith is survived by her daughter, Kathy Smith, Scottsdale, Arizona; sons, Kurt Smith, Winter Haven, and Kyle Smith, Orlando; and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Oak Ridge Funeral Care, Winter Haven. Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Grace Lutheran Church, Winter Haven.

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