Friday, July 27, 2012

Hers Was a Light That Shone Brightly

In June, 2011, the Library helped celebrate Indiana Room Librarian Emeritus Wanda Potts' 90th birthday.  Wanda passed over this week (Wednesday, July 25, 2012).  Aside from a few years' stay on the far west side of Indianapolis, she was a lifelong resident of Mooresville, Indiana.

Wanda Potts attended the Library's 100th Anniversary
celebration on Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wanda Potts' Obituary
Mooresville-Decatur Times, July 29, 2012

Wanda Rusie was born on June 16, 1921.  Her father's cousin was baseball hall of famer (and Mooresville native) Amos W. Rusie (1871-1942), known as "the Hoosier Thunderbolt," who played professionally for Indianapolis, the New York Giants, and the Cincinnati Reds (1889-early 1900s).  Wanda's talents were more cerebral, although she was rightly proud (who wouldn't be?) of having the fastest pitcher in major league baseball (at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries) in her family.

Growing up, Wanda was passionate about the cinema.  She loved movies and worked for several years in the town's then-only movie theater, the Ritz, located on East Main Street downtown in the Mooresville Times building (as it has been known for the past 40 years). Her school chums, teachers, and co-workers would have been amazed had they known (back in the 1930s and 1940s) that one day Wanda would appear in a major motion picture--Hoosiers (1986), in which she played an extra (she still had a 1950s wardrobe in her closets at home, she said, so why not?)--although, ultimately, her scenes ended on the cutting room floor.  Still, appearing in a real, live movie counts as a brush with stardom, and I'm certain that she was thrilled to appear, even briefly, alongside movie stars like those she saw at the Ritz as a teenager and young married lady (following her nuptials to Carl Richard Potts).

In 1966 Wanda Potts became the MPL Indiana Room Librarian and Assistant Librarian, which was the title (at that time) for the Assistant Director of the Library.  She held this post until she retired in 2002.  Wanda was passionate about local, county, and state history, and it was her life's work to preserve as much information as possible about Mooresville and the surrounding area, as well as historical documentation about Indianapolis and central Indiana.  She cared deeply about family histories, too--especially among hometown residents--so she assembled extensive genealogical data for the community's families.

Wanda was known for decades as the town historian.  Nobody knew more about Mooresville's colorful history than she.  The vast treasure trove of historical collections in the MPL Indiana Room was significantly created, augmented, and entirely maintained by her for nearly four decades, with the help of trusted and valued library colleagues and volunteers she had known for many years.   You would not now be reading this blog if she had not safeguarded and assembled the knowledge necessary to sketch Mooresville's historical canvas.

I would invite you to reprise my earlier blog postings containing Wanda's historical newspaper columns.  There are many such postings, so please browse them at your leisure.  You will learn more about local history than you ever thought possible.

A town’s history is like a lighthouse, shining a community’s collective memories to guide all those sailing the seas of everyday living. Wanda Potts was the lighthouse keeper, whose mastery of Mooresville history was unsurpassed, and who cherished and preserved the knowledge of nearly two centuries of community life here. Hers was the light that shone brightly. Thanks to Wanda’s labors at Mooresville Public Library, that history shines on, assuring modern residents a better understanding of the hometown she loved.

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