A lasting legacy at Thompson Free Library

By Kim Brawn, Thompson Free Library

You know that moment in May when you look out the window or glance around on your walk and all of a sudden everything is green again? The shift is palpable and welcome.

That’s kind of how it’s been since news broke about the late Paula Willoughby’s generous donation to the Thompson Free Library in Dover-Foxcroft that will allow residents of Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties to get free library cards. We’ve been busy signing people up. They’re excited and grateful — so are we.

Because we’ve had a few questions and a lot of interest in her story, we wanted to share more about Paula who passed away in Sedona, Arizona in November of 2021.

Following her time in the Marine Corps, the UMaine graduate worked for Stouffer’s in the 1980s when frozen meals like Lean Cuisine were first introduced. Later she put her artistic skills to good use as an interior decorator.

After moving to San Luis Obispo, California, she met her future husband Louis Harper, a professor at Cal Poly, who would go anywhere Paula wanted as long as he had a book to read. Paula was an avid reader and collector of cookbooks and an excellent cook in her own right.

In addition to pursuing her passions far and wide, Paula kept in touch with her Maine roots. Her sister Sally Nuite, who lives in Sangerville, was an elementary school teacher in Dexter for many years. Sally’s husband Bradley, who passed away in 2004, was an avid reader of history.

Paula made frequent trips to the area, often staying with Bradley’s sister Barbara Lockwood and her husband Dave. Barbara started working at the Thompson Free Library in 1979 and has been a part of the TFL family ever since, as a librarian, volunteer, patron, and friend to all! She is currently a member of the library’s association and her daughter Amanda Maddocks is on the library’s Executive Committee.

Love for the Thompson Free Library shines through in every member of Paula’s extended family, so it is fitting that she left this generous gift to the library in memory of her brother-in-law Bradley.

Now even more people will become involved with TFL and get to experience great programs like our May lineup.

Multi-talented Gale Robinson of Leaves and Blooms Greenhouse and Dover Cove Farmers’ Market fame guides us through a fun, easy project at “Rock Painting 101” on Thursday, May 9 at 1:30 p.m. The finished lady bug design will make for a great home or garden décor. All supplies provided.

At 6 p.m. on May 9 the TFL Reading Group discusses “Akin” by Emma Donoghue. The Sydney Morning Herald calls the book “a deceptively deep, character-driven novel more about people and place than plot. The writing, humour and humanity will remain with you, as will the questions it asks.” Copies available at TFL.

It’s salmon season again at the library! May 10-17 we’ll have a tank of live juvenile Atlantic salmon as part of our collaboration with the Atlantic Salmon Foundation on Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. for the “Penobscot River Restoration Book Reading &  Discussion Panel.” Hear from people who played a central role in the biggest dam removal project in Maine history. Authors from the Penobscot Indian Nation, Penobscot River Restoration Project, The Nature Conservancy, and ASF will read excerpts from the book “From the Mountains to the Sea” (available at TFL) that profiled this transformational project. They’ll also answer your questions about its enduring impact and benefits for fish, wildlife, and communities in Maine and around the world. 

Suddenly, we’re having a Ten Cent Book Sale! TFL’s basement will be overflowing with great deals May 30 to June 1 (Thursday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m to 12:30 p.m.).

TFL’s Story Slam is on the road again, this time to Vail’s Custom Cakes & Icelandic Bakery at 920 West Main Street on Friday, May 31 at 6 p.m. The theme is “All of a sudden.” Life is full of twists and turns, and everyone has had those “all of a sudden” moments—devastating, delightful, confusing, overwhelming — so please come and share yours with us. Coffee, tea and pastries, will be provided.

May promises to be high energy at the library with lots to do and see. We welcome our new patrons and hope you return often. Thanks to a wonderful web of family ties more people will access TFL’s amazing collection and programming. The positive ripple effect from Paula Willoughby’s gift will be felt far and wide. 

TFL hours: Tuesday, Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visit our website, our Facebook page, Instagram @tf_library, or contact us at or 207-564-3350. All programs are free and open to the public.

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