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Popular Holtville librarian dies at 65 after short illness

September 11, 2001|By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — It has been said that to whom much is given, much is expected.

Sally Henthorne, Holtville's beloved librarian, was given a love of life and a love for her fellow man. She died Saturday after a brief illness while on vacation in Reno.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Southern Baptist Church in Holtville.

Flags flying at half-staff this week at the library and at City Hall are a token of the city's love and respect for this energetic, cheerful lady.

Henthorne, 65, was librarian at the Meyer Memorial Library for 17 years. Prior to that she was librarian at Finley Elementary School in Holtville. In 1997 the library was expanded with $80,000 raised locally. The same year she was named Holtville's citizen of the year, an honor she cherished.


Throughout the years she worked closely with Literacy Volunteers of America and the Incredible Reading Rally. She ceaselessly encouraged youngsters to read. Programs she started included the summer reading program and summer reading contest.

Born Nov. 20, 1935, in Des Moines, Iowa, she started dating her future husband, Pete Henthorne, when they were both 14 years old. Shortly after their marriage in 1955 they moved to El Centro. Pete Henthorne worked for Southern California Gas Co. and later went into law enforcement. He retired as Holtville police chief in 1988.

Sally Henthorne loved clowns and ended up with more than 600 in her collection. Earrings were another thing she liked and she usually wore those that matched her moods or special holidays. She liked animals and had several pets. Although she was afraid of horses she stopped to visit an mare once or twice a day while it was getting ready to foal. She would crawl into the corral with the horse and let it rest its head on her chest.

She and Pete Henthorne enjoyed camping and fishing, "wherever she could throw in a line," said her daughter Topie Bailey of Holtville.

"Mom and I had breakfast almost every morning at the Taco Shop," Bailey said. "She was my best friend. There wasn't anything I couldn't tell her. I will miss her love of life and her love for my dad. I have never seen anyone as devoted."

Her daughter Carma Henthorne of Reno said her mother never met anyone she considered a stranger.

"It didn't matter who came in the library, the bum off the street or one of her regular patrons," she said. "She treated them all with respect … She may have had small feet, but her shoes were awfully big. I will strive to fill them."

Geraldine Hartshorn, a frequent visitor to the library, was most appreciative of Sally's cheerful greetings and her ability to remember library patrons reading preferences.

"She will be greatly missed," said Hartshorn. "She tried to keep in mind what we all enjoyed reading and have it ready for us if at all possible."

The diminutive librarian never weighed much more than 90 pounds but she kept a busy schedule. In addition to her work at the library she was active in the Soroptomist Club, the city's Chamber of Commerce and Desert Valley Library Media Association.

"We have been friends for years and have gone on several conferences together," said Virginia Samaha, a fellow Soroptimist Club member. "She was always pleasant and easy to get along with, but she stood up for herself. We got along well, and she was the only other club member who smoked!"

County Librarian Connie Barrington knew Henthorne for many years.

"She was so dynamic and caring about her patrons," Barrington said. "I think the outpouring of affection and support that has been pouring in this week is just the tip of the iceberg."

Friends with Henthorne for more than 40 years, Merilyn Hammond, remembered her as a special woman and one interested in the community.

"She was an energetic person with many friends who are saddened by her untimely passing. It is wonderful that she could get to know her grandchildren so well and see them as blossoming young people," Hammond said.

Young and old alike will miss Henthorne. Kids on their way home from school frequently stopped in to say hello or get a drink or use the bathroom. Henthorne knew most by name.

Occasionally her young friends picked a flower to give her. Louise Bonham, another frequent visitor to the library, was amazed at the number of library card numbers Henthorne committed to memory.

"It didn't matter if you had your card," Bonham said, "she knew your number. Sally would save Christian books and Bibles for me under the counter. She was always thinking of others. She would say, ‘I know you will find a good home for them.'

"I think all the little kids she came into contact with will always have the idea that libraries are warm and friendly and loving."

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