Cedar Rapids' new west-side branch library is being named for Marilyn Ladd, a former test technician at Rockwell Collins who without fanfare or strings left the library a gift of almost $750,000 at her death a year ago.
Ladd’s gift is the largest the library has ever received from a single individual, Bob Pasicznyuk, the library’s director, said on Thursday.
Pasicznyuk said news of the gift came in March from the Cedar Rapids law firm handling Ladd’s estate.
"I was stunned," the library director recalled.
The city’s library board of directors on Thursday voted to approve Pasicznyuk’s recommendation and name the new west-side branch Ladd Library.
The branch, which is slated to open on Feb. 23, takes up a portion of what had been a Target store across Williams Boulevard SW from Westdale Mall.
Pasicznyuk called the size of Ladd’s gift "transformative," and he said it has allowed the library board to add design features to the west-side branch similar to those that will be part of the new downtown library, now under construction and which is slated to open in August.
The total project cost of the new west-side branch is about $2 million, the library director said.
Pasicznyuk said his staff and the library’s foundation searched through newspaper archives and other materials to try to piece together something of who Ladd was. They didn’t find much.
Ladd was born Aug. 17, 1925, in Cedar Rapids, the daughter of Philip and Dorothy (Stemlar) Ladd. She retired from Rockwell Collins in 1988 and is survived by two cousins, Tom and John Stemlar.
Katie Geiken, the library foundation’s director, on Thursday said Tom Stemlar is pleased that the library board has decided to recognize his cousin in a meaningful way.
Pasicznyuk said Ladd appeared in a 1957 edition of The Gazette as treasurer of the Linn County Young Democrats. In a March 1958 edition of the newspaper, Ladd was pictured during National Library Week in front of her collection of British and American literature.
Years later, Ladd appeared in The Gazette’s "Write Right" column in 1995, sounding like someone who might donate to a library one day. In the column, Ladd said she was looking for a "professional word killer" to assassinate the phrase, "shooting spree," a phrase she called "this world’s most inappropriate cliché." Her two dictionaries, she said, define spree as "a frolic" and "boisterous fun."
"If that is its meaning, why do journalists apply it to shooting four people, killing two of them?" Ladd asked. "A bad case of ‘alliteritis’ perhaps or do there exist alternate dictionaries for the alternate world of TV and some newspapers?"
Pasicznyuk on Thursday said he never met Ladd and never had heard of her until news of her generous gift arrived in March. She had put the library in her will back in 1994, he said.Her obituary a year ago said she died after a short illness. She’s buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Cedar Rapids.