The Pulitzer prize-winning author (“Winds of War”) Herman Wouk once wrote: “The door available to everyone that can lead to happiness and success is the modest door of the public library.”
On Sept. 22, 1989, the 15,065-square-foot Ray D. Prueter Library was dedicated and named in honor of the beloved Port Hueneme mayor who served from 1962 to 1974.
Prueter led the city during a dozen years marked by such major construction projects as a shopping center, various residential buildings and subdivisions, the fishing pier, Hueneme Beach Park, the Hueneme Boys Club, the community center, the post office and an extensive ($4.9 million bond issue) expansion of the harbor.
The bespectacled, open-faced and perpetually smiling Prueter was a regular visitor to his namesake library. He often introduced himself to the children browsing the shelves and then chuckled when they would recognize him as “The Library Man.” He was also known to make an impromptu donation of pricey educational materials whenever he discovered that such supplies were out of the financial reach of the small town library.
While the self-deprecating Prueter, who passed away at 87 on April 7, 2008, was tickled at the prospect of having a library named after him, he also took special pride in the building’s unique features.
The ocean, so cherished by Prueter as well as the folks who populate Port Hueneme, is front and center in the wave-like forms of a roof designed to maximize use of natural light as well as the sea-colored Italian glass mosaics that decorate the outside and inside of the entryway.
On Sunday, Oct. 19, the interior of the cheerful, sunlit building will be transformed into a bit of old England as the Friends of the Library welcome more than 100 guests to their Victorian High Tea fundraiser. Even though Prueter’s widow, Laura, currently resides in Montana, she never fails to send a generous check.
But you don’t have to have a building named for you to be, in local historian Powell Greenland’s words, “one of a great number of individuals, beginning with William E. Barnard” (who founded Wynema in 1869) that contributed to Port Hueneme’s evolution into “The Friendly City by the Sea.”
In fact, in April 1937, when the first Oxnard Harbor District Commission, consisting of a Hueneme banker (E.O. Green), an Oxnard businessman (Eugene H. Agee) and a Somis rancher (Fred M. Aggen) proposed naming the still uncompleted harbor “Port Bard,” Richard Bard politely declined. It seemed “less fitting and, in the long run, less desirable than the old-established historical name that has been used since the days of Cabrillo.”
Last week, the Port Hueneme Historical Museum Commission inaugurated its “People Who Made a Difference” series by displaying the personal doll collection of longtime resident Dorothy Ramirez.
The diminutive Ramirez, known for her boundless energy and bowl-cut hair (more salt than pepper), died just a year ago at age 98.
Helen Brant, whose friendship with Ramirez spanned an awe-inspiring 75 years, listed a lengthy litany of honors awarded by the community organizations that Ramirez faithfully served over the years, including the highly coveted “Woman of the Year in California” title in 1998.
Yet, Brant provided the best insight into Ramirez with an apparently off-the-cuff remark. Both Ramirez and Brant had been 20-year proprietors of competing grocery stores. “But we would borrow (merchandise) from each other,” Brant confided. Can you imagine such unselfish cooperation between Ralphs and Vons?
Larry and Roberta Downing told me about Ramirez’s role in acquiring the Lillis Waters’ estate for the Port Hueneme Historical Museum. When the former mobile home resident died, Waters’ heirs offered her 1,522 pairs (a Guinness record?) of salt and pepper shakers — but with the proviso that the unique collection be prominently displayed.
Undaunted, Ramirez made it happen — from having floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets built in Ojai to helping to remove decades of accumulated grime from ceramic figurines ranging from naughty to charming to politically incorrect to nice.
During her 30-minute talk to a standing-room-only audience, an eloquent Elizabeth Babchuk introduced her mother’s favorite dolls — each accompanied by an account that amusingly illustrated a different component of Ramirez’s altruistic yet still complicated persona.
The real-life lessons imparted by the dolls gathered during Ramirez’s travels all over the world, however, remain twofold. Despite days overflowing with volunteering, she was still able to find a healthy balance between work and play and to avoid taking herself too seriously — even though her life would touch hundreds of others.
Ramirez also realized that it’s not really important that the floor, ceiling and walls of a building bear your name. It’s only the door, you see, that counts — the door you open for somebody else to arrive at a better place.
Beverly Kelley writes a biweekly column for The Star. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: “Dorothy’s Dolls” will be on display for the next three months at the Port Hueneme Historical Society Museum.
Where: 220 N. Market St., Port Hueneme. Museum tours by appointment.
Info: Call 488-2023 or email email@example.com.