For years, Kathryn Nicholas was a familiar sight at the Scott County Public Library in downtown Scottsburg.
A 1941 Austin High School graduate and salutatorian of her graduating class, she first served as a library aide at the high school. In 1939, she was hired for a weekend job at the Scottsburg library at age 16. Her life revolved around working on the weekends at the Scottsburg building while staying with Rachel Wells, widow of Samuel Wells, a lawyer and owner of the county newspapers. Mrs. Wells first determined young Kathryn, who was an orphan, would make an excellent librarian and, as a member of the library board at that time, she recommended the tall, dark-haired girl. So, during the week, she lived with her grandparents in Austin and concentrated on her schooling, but she enjoyed those weekends.
Kathryn earned her first library certification in 1944, three years after she was hired full-time. For the next 53 years, Kathryn served as the friendly face of the county library system. After she took over the head librarian's job in 1946-47, Kathryn and her board bought an old bread truck and transformed it into a bookmobile. She also established small libraries in many of the county's one-room schoolhouses.
That was her goal in life, noted close friend Joe Smith. “She made sure the county's children had access to books. We even had home libraries she started in areas of the county, so children who lived far away from town could visit a neighbor and get a new book to read,” he explained. Smith was very familiar with the schoolhouse libraries; he became the Sunnyside School's librarian at age eight, earning two pennies per book he loaned out.
“Kathryn and Nick (Harold Nicholas, her late husband) weren't blessed with children of their own, but, believe me, they had lots and lots of children they helped,” advised Smith.
The Scottsburg Library had been established in 1921 with books purchased by its board from a private collector. Kathryn realized how valuable some of those books were and, in her capacity as head librarian, helped preserve many of the volumes.
To continue her education in library science, Kathryn took certification classes over the years at the old Indiana Central College and at Indiana University Southeast.
The Nicholases were devoted members of Scottsburg First Christian Church. Kathryn was also a member of the Indiana Library Federation and Friends of the Library as well as the Scott County Historical Society and an honor member of the Alpha Pi Chapter of Psi Iota Xi Sorority. She was also a member of Scottsburg Order of Eastern Star Chapter 107 for over 50 years.
To her friends and those she worked with, she was a kind-hearted person with a wonderful personality topped off by an excellent brain. Her organizational skills were amazing. To her extended family, she was always Aunt Kathryn.
Preceding her in death was her husband and her parents, Roy and Captole Brittain Disney as well as a sister, Alma Baird.
Survivors include nephews and nieces and their children as well as special friends.
Visitation and the funeral service were conducted at the Stewart & Hoagland Funeral Home in Scottsburg on Saturday, January 2. Joe Smith, Phil LaMaster and John Lowry officiated.
Burial was in Scottsburg Cemetery.
Memorial gifts may be arranged through the funeral home staff to benefit Scottsburg First Christian Church.
On-line condolences may be expressed to the family by visiting www.stewart-hoaglandfuneralhome.com.