Lockhart icon passes￼
By Kyle Mooty
Called everything from a Lockhart legend to an icon in the community, Rose Aleta Laurell was all of the above to the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, where her memory will live for many generations to come.
Laurell, also known as the “Librarian on the Roof,” passed away on Nov. 15.
Bertha Martinez, whom Laurell hired as a library assistant, is now director of library services.
“She was amazing,” Martinez said. “I was very lucky to have known her and to have worked for her for all these years. She was an icon to the community and to this library.”
Lockhart Mayor Lew White credited Laurell with being a major influence of the legendary Lockhart Christmas event the “Dickens Festival,” which has changed its name to “A Christmas to Remember in Lockhart,” and will take place Dec. 2-3.
“Rose Aleta loved reading, loved learning, and loved the library,” White said. “She was the heart of Dickens and was wildly creative. Who else would have camped on top of the library in the rain and cold to benefit the library? She will always be the Looney Librarian and a Lockhart legend.”
M.G. King memorialized Laurell in the book, Librarian on the Roof when she spent a week living and working on the library’s roof to raise money after learning that the children thought the library was for adults only. She raised more than $39,000, withstanding a dangerous storm during her time on the roof. People from across the country heard of Laurell’s adventure and fundraising efforts and sent money to the cause.
“She was one of a kind,” said Felicity Winnett, Laurell’s daughter. “It’s hard to put into words. She was so instrumental to so many people with this town. She wouldn’t have it any other way. She told us to reach higher. She told you what she expected, and it was up to you to figure out how to get it done and how she expected the library to be used.”
Winnett’s daughter, Madison, wrote a letter of love that was read at her grandmother’s service last weekend.
“She called my daughter “The Grand One,” Winnett said.
Laurell was at the library from 1989-2002, starting systems such as the online card catalog.
Madison Winnett’s letter touched those in attendance.
“I just wanted to share a few things about the impact of who my grandmother was to me,” Madison Winnett wrote. “Many of you also know her by the name of ‘Big Mama,’ and for those who don’t know where that came about, when I was born, (she) wanted me to be named something iconic, something no one would ever forget. My mother asked, ‘What do you want your grandma name to be?’ As anyone could imagine, the way she responded, ‘Just call me Big Mama.’ Anywhere we would go with her, she was introduced as ‘Big Mama,’ and no one questioned that name.
“One thing I absolutely loved about her was she could walk into any room, and everyone would immediately know she was there. She was infectious with her warmth and love. It’s incredible seeing her run a room, in her element. I strive to have even a speck of that effect on people.
“The last thing I want to share about my Big Mama was her love for Christmas. We all know that Christmas is the most magical time of year, but she would put an entirely different spin on it. Witnessing her decorate an entire house is truly a site to see. It always looked like Christmas exploded all over the place and she would always say ‘Trust the process.’ It was a never-ending process. She made decorations out of literally anything she could put her hands on. She could make a boring bush look like the most outrageous, ridiculous, and beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. She was a crafty one. But her love for Christmas was incredible. She found the joy in every aspect of the holiday, so the next time you are stressed out about decorating, baking, gift shopping, or even untangling lights, think about what Big Mama would do and find the joy in this magical time. Hold your loved ones tight, Stop and look at the decorations, the lights and just admire it all.”