Darrington honors longtime librarian taken by the Oso mudslide

This is a good thing. This is a happy place.

Those sentiments were shared Saturday at a Darrington Library ceremony honoring Linda McPherson, the library’s longtime manager. One of 43 people lost a year ago in the Oso mudslide, McPherson, 69, had also served nearly two decades on the Darrington School Board.

On this weekend of remembrances, it was standing room only when the library community room was dedicated in McPherson’s memory. There were more smiles than tears in a fitting place to remember a woman who cared deeply about learning, children and her native Darrington.

“She loved being part of building this,” said Kate McPherson, Linda’s daughter, who lives on the east side of the Cascades in Bridgeport.

With the Darrington area home he and his wife shared now gone, Gary “Mac” McPherson, Linda’s widower and Kate’s father, now lives in the central Washington town with his daughter.

“This is a good thing. Linda was a prime mover in getting this library built,” Mac McPherson said before the ceremony began. Linda McPherson was manager when the town’s new library was built in 1989. It was expanded more than five years ago.

Matthew Riggen, a member of Friends of Darrington Library, called the meeting room “a community hub.”

Amanda Klett also spoke at the event, calling McPherson a great aunt, grandmother and mentor.

A plaque featuring her photograph, with Whitehorse Mountain in the background, is now installed in the Linda McPherson Community Room. Words on the plaque are a brief biography: “Lifetime community member. 28 years Darrington librarian. 19 years school board member. Oceanographer,” it says. “In gratitude for her glowing smile, passion for education, and many gifts to our community.”

Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory, executive director of Sno-Isle Libraries, called herself an “FOL — friend of Linda’s.” She remembered trips to Darrington during McPherson’s tenure, and how McPherson loved looking out at Whitehorse Mountain. Outside the library, there is now a magnolia tree planted by the McPhersons’ son Eric.

Raised in Darrington, one of five girls and two boys in her family, McPherson left to attend the University of Washington and became an oceanographer.

“She wanted to raise her children here,” said Sylvia Fusetti-Caldwell, one of McPherson’s sisters. She said her sister “embraced as much life as she could,” and cultivated lifelong interests in art, architecture, literature and gardening. Above all, she cared about people, “especially children,” Fusetti-Caldwell said. “She told me the library was never a job.”

“What a nice place to pay tribute to her. This is a happy place,” said Peter Selvig, whose 30 years on the Darrington School Board overlapped with much of McPherson’s service. Selvig held up a picture of McPherson’s 50th Darrington High School reunion. His wife, Diane, was in McPherson’s class of 1963.

“Linda was my book of knowledge,” said Selvig, recalling all the times he came to the library to be helped by McPherson. On the school board, he said, she was “by the book.”

“Her connection with children was unique,” Selvig said. “The school library didn’t have a wealth of books. Linda would find the right book for the right kid.” He also credited McPherson with helping bring technology to Darrington schools.

David Holmer, Darrington School District superintendent and the high school principal, said McPherson was a calming influence on the school board. “She thought it through, and made decisions in the best interest of putting students first,” he said.

Erika Morris said her son, Emmett Sapp, had a champion in McPherson when he wanted to serve on the school board as a high school student representative. “She was very instrumental in his success,” said Morris, whose son will soon graduate from Georgetown University.

Today, Asheley Bryson is the Darrington Library manager. She was hired by McPherson in 2008.

“She was not just offering me a job that day, she was guiding my path,” said Bryson, whose husband Eric Bryson grew up in Darrington. “Today, when I’m not quite sure of something, I try and think ‘What would Linda do?’”

Bryson recalled being worried about telling McPherson the news when she became pregnant with her first child. “I had worked there less than a year and loved my job,” she said. “When I finally told her, she put her arms around me and said ‘a library baby!’

“She was so welcoming and friendly. She really showed me what it means to be that cornerstone of the community,” Bryson said. “I have very big shoes to fill.”

Merle Green worked at the library as children’s liaison when McPherson was there. “I think about her every day, and all of my thoughts are good,” she said.

“Linda created an atmosphere here. This was her house,” Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin said. “She was a most gracious host. Kids would go to the library without being told to.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com

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