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By: Virginia Volkman, Library Director
For: Red Rock News
Date: July 30, 2010

Library Volunteer Val Hirsch Retires After 35 Years of Service

If you regularly visit the Sedona Public Library on Saturday, you’ve most likely been given a warm smile and welcome by volunteer Valeria Hirsch.  Val has worked at the library’s circulation desk on Saturday afternoon for over 35 years, checking books out to thousands of patrons during this time.  That tradition will soon come to an end when she moves to Tucson to be closer to her family

There will be a farewell reception for Val on Saturday, July 31 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the library.  We invite all her friends to stop by and wish her well in this next chapter of her life.  Come help us celebrate Val’s retirement and send her on her way with the heartfelt thanks of a grateful community.

I first worked with Val in 1979 when she shared Saturday desk duties with Ginger Scott.  Volunteers often come as couples and Val’s husband Eliot did much of the graphic design work for the library.  We could count on him for beautifully hand-lettered posters and flyers.

The library was located on Jordan Road, and the building just behind it on Price Road housed the librarian, where I could easily be found.  Eliot couldn’t wait to show me his latest project for Valentine’s Day.  He had created a huge valentine with all the names of the library’s volunteers eloquently placed inside a heart.  He enthusiastically walked across the street to let me have a look.  That work of art still remains in the library on White Bear Road.

Val’s art form is needlework and on a recent trip to her house she gave me a tour of the many pieces she’s created over the years.  I still have a baby blanket that Val knit for my son, who’s now 30 years old. 

Val was born in 1917 in Calumet City, Illinois, to Polish parents.  She loves to use her Polish language skills when she finds a kindred spirit.  My husband, Nick, knows a bit of Polish from his stay in a Polish research station in Antarctica.  He and Val hit it off from the start, and Nick will be dropping by the library to say “sto lot.”

When I returned to Sedona to interview for the director position in the spring of 2009, the interview committee was giving me a tour of the library and when we came around a corner, there was Val.  She asked me, “Do you remember me?”  I said that I certainly did, but that I was amazed that 24 years after l left the Sedona Public Library, she was still volunteering! 

If you did your math, you’ll realize that Val is 93 years old.  While her knees aren’t what they used to be, her sense of humor has not faltered.  When the library honored her at the Volunteer Appreciation Lunch with a certificate and special pin to signify her 35 years of service, she said: “What, no money?” 

In a recent Red Rock News interview with Lu Stitt, Val had this to say about her volunteer work at the library: “There are always nice people coming in and we talk.  I’ve gotten to know quite a few.  It’s like my second home.”

Her wit and friendliness have endeared Val to patrons who have chatted with her as they came in and out of the library. The following comments are from a card that people have signed to express their sentiments:

  • Your shining face has been an inspiration.
  • Thank you for all your dedicated service.
  • You are a model for all of us as we age.
  • Thanks for all you’ve done.
  • Your smile will be missed.  Enjoy what life brings you next.
  • Your spirit of service to others is very real.  Thank you for sharing that joy of giving.
  • We’ll miss seeing you.

And so we say to Val Hirsch:  Sto lot!  Good luck, good cheer, may you live a hundred years.

Virginia Volkman, author of this week's article,
is Director of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.