August 25, 2015 – At a press conference today, St. Thomas Public Library Board Chair Greg Grondin announced that the Library will receive a donation from the estate of Mary Ann Neely in the amount of $1,000,000 (one million dollars). “I can admit we were all momentarily speechless,” said Grondin. “We sincerely appreciate that Mary Ann had the confidence in us to entrust the Library Board with her legacy.”
Many St. Thomas residents have fond memories of Mary Ann Neely as the High School English teacher at Alma College and Parkside Collegiate, where she taught until her retirement.
Mary Ann Neely was born in Buffalo, New York, but before she reached school age, the family moved to St. Thomas, where her grandparents lived. She was educated in St. Thomas, attending the Myrtle and Wellington Street Schools, and St. Thomas Collegiate Institute. She graduated from Alma College, then the University of Western Ontario with a BA and MA. Teaching high school English was Mary Ann’s chosen career. Though small in stature, Mary Ann could control a classroom of students with her creative ability to share her passion for her chosen subject. She earned the respect and gratitude of all who had the opportunity to be in her classroom. Some of her former students wrote tributes, including: “She touched many, and enriched many.” “She was one of the few great teachers.”
An avid reader all her life, Mary Ann enjoyed her many years of St. Thomas Public Library membership. Each year following her retirement she had the opportunity to choose books and lead the discussion at one of the monthly Library Book Club meetings.
Mary Ann was an active volunteer, contributing her time and talents to the St. Thomas Caring Cupboard, St. Thomas Golf and Country Club, the Western University Book Club, the Retired Teachers Association, and other community organizations.
In her lifetime, Mary Ann travelled far and wide, and took tours to Italy, England, France and Ireland. She loved to visit Stratford, Ontario, as well as Stratford, England to enjoy Shakespeare’s plays. She especially loved visiting warm places such as Florida, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico and Bermuda.
Mary Ann was an excellent cook, and loved to entertain her many friends and neighbours in her long time home on Stanley Street. She loved dogs, and shared her life with Buddie, a succession of boxers named Rocky, and lastly Bronte, who has now found a new home.
Alma College was a big part of Mary Ann’s life, and she was a long time member of the St. Thomas branch, Alma College Alumnae, and the Alma College International Alumnae. In honour of her connection to Alma College, the Library Board acquired an historic Alma College Music Cabinet from the Neely Estate.
“The Library Board is thrilled that it was Mary Ann Neely’s wish that the donation be used for building enhancements as well as library materials,” said Chief Librarian Rudi Denham. “Very soon, the Library Board will be requesting the services of an architect to assist in the design of a building addition in the form of a garden atrium.”
“The Board would like to also thank Mary Ann’s executors for their time and their confidence in us”. Grondin concluded: “They say that “A life well lived is a gift to the future”, and this is her legacy: Mary Ann Neely lives on in the legacy that she leaves St. Thomas Public Library and the community.”
For further information contact
Greg Grondin, Board Chair
St. Thomas Public Library
CEO/ Chief Librarian
St. Thomas Public Library
519-631-6050 x 8027