Some people find joy in curling up with a good book. Randall Gross found it in being surrounded by them.

A Waldoboro native and history aficionado, Gross could often be found tucked away at a back corner table of his beloved Waldoboro Public Library’s reference area. There, he’d spend countless hours researching town history, recording his findings and helping others weed through documents to discover their family genealogies. Often, Gross arrived before the library staff in the morning and stayed until late afternoon. It was a practice he kept until he died of cancer on March 1.

Gross’ familiar presence, quiet manner and helpful guidance have been greatly missed by library staff and patrons who sought his expertise on a number of research projects. But on Saturday, his smile will once again be seen in the research area there.

That is when library directors and staff will unveil a new portrait of Gross, along with a plaque, officially dedicating the space as Randy’s Corner. The candid portrait, taken during one of Gross’ working projects in 2009, was taken by Waldoboro photographer Linda Eastman.

Library directory Timothy McFadden said the event is being held as part of the library’s annual volunteer recognition ceremony, which honors the nearly 50 people who give of their time and resources to help with the upkeep and running of the library.

“This reception is in appreciation of all our volunteers, and we’ll have a special dedication of the library space where Randy did most of his work,” said McFadden. “Randy was the library’s longest-serving volunteer. He was a self-taught genealogist with a big heart who worked here faithfully for many years. Recently he put together a two-volume book, ‘Cemeteries of Waldoboro, Maine,’ that we have here in our collection.”

Fellow volunteer Jean Lawrence said Gross was a Waldoboro native and a 1972 graduate of Medomak Valley High School who worked for various local businesses and was a member of several historical societies, grange halls and other organizations. He often volunteered for historical research projects.

“Randy was very well thought of,” said Lawrence. “He served the people who came to the library, even offering to loan them books from his own collection.”

Gross was passionate about the people and places associated with his beloved Waldoboro and took a keen interest in documenting his family origins, which were rooted deeply in the town.

Last Christmas, he created handmade, laminated photo place mats to give as gifts that featured his family tree on one side and images of the town on the other.

Gross helped library staffer Liza Keene research her Bremen-area kin a few years ago.

“Randy could talk endlessly about local history and anything having to do with genealogy,” said Keene. “He was the go-to person if anyone had questions about it. He was extremely dedicated to the library and loved the town of Waldoboro.”

Assistant library director Cathrina Skov said Gross carved a niche for himself as a great resource.

“He was always eager and willing to share what he knew,” said Skov. “People would come in and talk to him for hours. I would sometimes ask him, ‘What are we going to do without you?’ “

That is likely a question Gross asked himself. Though treatment for his cancer had failed to stop its progression, it could not stop him from advancing his work. During his final days, Gross gave many copies of his personal research to the library. Skov keeps a file drawer, marked “Randy’s Stuff,” filled with Gross’ helpful suggestions for serving patrons and answering their historical questions.

“He was always giving me information that I’d tuck away because I knew, one day, I’d have to answer those questions,” said Skov.

Lawrence said it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose of volunteering while engrossed in a task. Not so with Gross, who simply gave from what he possessed.

“(Volunteering is) actually the giving of ourselves,” said Lawrence. “(Randy) gave what he had and what he knew about for the citizens of Waldoboro. And that is what we will be honoring on (Saturday).”

 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at:

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