By SHELLEY HANSON
WHEELING – Dorothy “Dottie” Thomas’ kindness, caring nature and love for the Ohio County Public Library served her well during the 25 years she served as director.
These are also the traits those who knew Thomas, who died Friday at 70, remember most fondly.
Library board member Tony Werner said he worked with Thomas for about 11 years before he retired last year. Werner said Thomas was diagnosed with cancer when she was just beginning to plan her retirement from her job. She went through her treatments, including when the council tried to find her a replacement.
Werner said Thomas was unable to fully enjoy her retirement because she was ill. She had only been retired for about a year when she died.
“She worked so hard. … She didn’t get a chance to enjoy it,” he said. “She handled it with dignity and grace, and although you could tell she was in pain in the meetings, she never let her spirit sink. She faced it with great courage.
Werner said Thomas was the most dedicated and knowledgeable librarian a library could wish for.
“She carried out her work in the library in a somewhat motherly way. She was caring and caring and made you feel at home at the library,” he said.
Werner said when he joined the board, his mother, now 88, started visiting the library. Thomas, he said, took the time to get to know his mother and make her feel welcome.
“It was like walking into his house. She treated my mother like royalty,” he said. “She will be greatly missed.”
Ohio County Library board member Greg Marquart said he worked with Thomas for about 10 years while serving on the board.
“She was a great asset to the community of Wheeling and Ohio County. She will be greatly missed,” Marquart said.
Marquart said Thomas worked closely with the council during a recent renovation of the library. It was a major project that involved replacing the walls and ceilings inside. The library remained open during the works, closing several sections at once.
“She was a big part of getting this accomplished,” Marquart said.
“I think she was highly respected by all the employees and customers. She was always looking for what was best for the Ohio County Library,” he added.
Marquart said it was a sad time for the library community with the news of Thomas’ passing.
“My prayers go out to his family and friends,” he said.
Amy Kastigar, director of the Ohio County Public Library, said Thomas loved his family and the library.
“Anyone who has spent time with Dottie Thomas immediately knew two things: she loved her family and she loved the Ohio County Public Library.
“She often had a story to tell about one of her grandchildren, or a book she wanted to share with them. And she was always thinking of ways to improve the library, which resulted in benefits for the Wheeling community, such as expanded meeting times, amazing adult and children’s programs, downloadable books and audiobooks, and our fantastic website with all of its Wheeling information and history,” Kastigar said.
“She fought for the library whenever funding became an issue, as is often the case in libraries, and she knew OCPL’s history like the back of her hand. Dottie lived a life of public service, and I think we can all agree that it was a life well lived.
Thomas graduated from West Liberty State College with degrees in English and History. She received her Masters in Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh.
She loved to read and was an animal lover, was devoted to several charities, and was a member of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. She is survived by her children Jennifer Riedel, Benjamin Thomas, Luke Thomas and Andrew Thomas, all of Wheeling; his sisters Nance Phillips of Ohio and Sue Sanders of Arizona; and eight grandchildren.
Visitation is Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at Altmeyer Funeral Home, Wheeling Chapel, 1400 Eoff St., Wheeling. His funeral will be held Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.