For nearly 50 years, Lou Anne Rundall has volunteered at the library at Seattle’s Highland Park Elementary. To honor all that service, the School Board has voted to name the library after her.
The decades-long love story between Lou Anne Rundall and the library at Seattle’s Highland Park Elementary started in 1968, when a librarian stood up at a PTA meeting and announced she needed help.
Rundall, then a 32-year-old Highland Park parent, raised her hand to volunteer. She had previously worked for 10 years at the King County Public Library. What better place to help her children’s school than in the library?
She started coming to Highland Park daily to help students check out books, organize the shelves and, when it wasn’t busy, make homemade bookmarks.
Nearly 50 years later, Rundall still follows the same routine.
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And earlier this month, the Seattle School Board shocked the 81-year-old by naming the library after her.
“They’re going to put up a plaque above the door and it’s going to be called the ‘Lou Anne Rundall Library,’ ” she said. “Can you imagine?”
She’s quick to clarify that she hasn’t volunteered for all of those 49 years. For three years in the 1970s she was paid as a library assistant until the money ran out. But she’s OK with being a volunteer. Her husband, who retired after a career as a plastics pattern maker — “whatever that is” — never grumbled about her being gone without earning money.
“The fact that I love it so much and he loves me so much is how I’ve been able to do it,” she said.
Rundall jokes that her two sons and three foster sons didn’t have the luxury of a stay-at-home mom. Instead, they walked to school together, spent the day at school together and walked home together.
Her oldest son lives in SeaTac, and a foster son lives in Michigan. The other two foster sons and her youngest son died. The youngest, Dave Rundall, was one of 15 crew members who died when the Seattle-based Arctic Rose fishing vessel sank in the Bering Sea in 2011.
After the loss of her sons, Rundall said, the library was her refuge. Teachers at the school were so loving, she recalled. What did they give her?
“Hugs. Hugs are always important, more so than words,” she said.
She contributes more than her time to the school. Every Monday she brings in flowers from her husband’s garden; right now it’s dahlias and roses. Every Tuesday she arrives with pumpkin bread or rhubarb cakes.
In letters and speeches to the School Board, current and former Highland Park teachers and school leaders recounted the cakes and flowers, and told stories about Rundall. Retired teacher Julie Miller, for example, remembered how Rundall used to walk to school barefoot, wearing a muumuu. (Rundall loves Hawaii.)
Now she drives, but has no plans to stop going to the place she calls her “manna from heaven.”
“I enter with a smile on my face and leave with a smile on my face.”