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One for the books: Lois Smith to celebrate 100th birthday

Lois Smith

Lois Smith

In 1937, fresh from a five-year stint as a children’s librarian in the New York City Public Library, Katherine Lois Murdough arrived in Wellsville to found the Children’s Library in the newly built David A. Howe Public Library.

Born in Boston, she had earned her degree in library science from Simmons College in 1932 and moved to New York City to work under the tutelage of Anne Carroll Moore, a recognized leader in the children’s library movement.

Then came the offer from the board of directors of the Howe Library, and the big-city girl packed her bags and headed to Wellsville.

She’s still here.

Lois Smith – as she is better known – will celebrate her 100th birthday Friday at a party for family and friends and held, appropriately enough, in the Children’s Room at the David A. Howe Public Library.

Her long and storied life led her from Wellsville to yet another Southern Tier town: Alfred. The former Miss Murdough married C. Duryea Smith III, chairman of Alfred University’s Department of Speech and Drama on Aug. 31, 1940, and she immediately immersed herself in her new community, where she would spend the next 67 years.

She joined the Alfred Wee Playhouse, an amateur theatrical group founded in 1920, and took a job as associate librarian for what was to become (in 1947) the Scholes Library of Ceramics at Alfred University. She retired in 1974 as a librarian emerita.

The Smith family grew with the addition of Charles Duryea Smith IV in 1941 and Jennifer Smith (now Fajman) in 1944.

In 1947, showing the impish sense of humor that endears Lois to her friends, she founded the “Reading Rots the Mind” Book Club in Alfred. She continued her involvement in the community in other ways as well, serving as a Camp Fire Girls leader and president of the Alfred-Almond Central School Parent-Teacher Association. Throughout her life, she was a strong supporter of the Alfred University Footlight Club, and a member of the Amandine Club.

C.D. Smith died in May 1977, but Lois regrouped and persevered, helping to found the Alfred Housing Committee in 1980. The committee is dedicated to improving housing and to undertaking community development in the towns and villages of Alfred, Almond and Wellsville. A past treasurer of the Alfred Housing Committee board of directors, Lois served on the board until 2006 and is still considered an honorary member.

In 1988, when New York State began looking for places to dispose of its low-level nuclear waste and selected three sites in Allegany County, Lois joined the “Bump the Dump” movement, which was successful in its campaign against the “nuclear waste dump.”

Alfred University honored Lois for her years of service and friendship to students and alumni, and her service to the community by naming her an honorary alumna in 2006.

At Reunion 2006, President Charles M. Edmondson bestowed the award, noting that in addition to her service to the Scholes Library of Ceramics, Lois “assisted with numerous theatrical productions, and welcomed many students into her home.” She befriended members of the sororities in her neighborhood, some of whom remain close to her today.

In 2007, after 67 years in Alfred, Lois returned to Wellsville, and now makes her home at the Wellsville Manor Care Center.