TAVERNIER - Lenora Albury, a librarian who walked generations of local readers through the aisles to good reading, is dead at 80.
Key Largo Library's branch manager for 30 years, Albury died Thursday, March 10, and leaves family and friends who remember her as anything but the stereotypical stiff librarian.
Albury was issued the first library card in the Upper Keys when the Bookmobile was the only source of public reading material. As an adult she was the Key Largo librarian when the public library opened in the Civic Club building and when it moved above what is now Bank of America. Later, she fought for the quarters in Tradewinds Plaza where the library is today. She retired in 1991.
"The library and everything that went with it was Lenora's contribution," said longtime friend and Monroe County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy. "She was a doer."
By all accounts, Albury invested as much energy into life outside the library as she invested in providing research materials and reading opportunities for the Upper Keys community.
She was active in Coral Shores High School's parents' organizations, a founding member of the Girl Scouts in the Upper Keys, Bicentennial chairwoman for Monroe County in 1976, a founder of the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys and a member of the Upper Keys Garden Club, Burton Memorial United Methodist Church, the Civic Club, Does, Elks, American Legion, Moose Lodge and more.
Life to Albury was a learning experience, meant to be lived as well as read. So in 1993 she took a trip to Brazil to study the pink porpoise of the Amazon.
"It was a big trip for her," said daughter Carol Albury-Johnson. "From so much sun exposure her lip started bleeding. She jumped into the river and they made her get out because they feared piranha would attack. They were in a dugout canoe and passed under a low-hanging kapok tree in full blossom. They had to lay down in the canoe to pass under the tree, and when she looked up she said she saw hundreds of toucan birds feeding on the flowers. She brought back a tape of howler monkeys she had made one night. She just loved that adventure."
As for knowing Florida history, her fellow master gardener and traveling companion, Donna Hansen, says Albury was like a portable encyclopedia.
"We went to a master gardener conference in Clearwater in about 2004 and Lenora drove. I thought it would be kind of boring riding with a librarian, but it was a great trip," Hanson recalled. "She gave me a history of every town we drove through. She was a lot of fun to be with and a great master gardener."
Albury also had a clever sense of humor to which a few privileged friends were privy.
"Mama and her friends Doris Kemp and Jackie Carpenter formed a club called the Thursday Independent Thinkers Society, TITS. They created an emblem with two stick men walking with a woman's breast between them -- two men walking abreast," recalled Albury-Johnson, chuckling at the memory.
Born May 24, 1930, Albury moved from Oklahoma to Florida with her parents when she was a child. She later married Capt. Calvin Albury, who was former President Herbert Hoover's 13-year fishing guide. Before Hoover died he gave the captain his watch and fishing rod. In Lenora's possession since her husband's death, the historical items will now be sent to the Hoover Library in Iowa, said Albury-Johnson.
Albury's life will be celebrated Saturday, April 2 at Burton Memorial in Tavernier. A reception will be held at her home afterwards.
"We'll have a garden party," said Albury-Johnson. "She loved garden parties."
Albury leaves behind three daughters, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, two brothers and many friends.