I think that it was August or September when she last came in on her own to check out books. Since then, Michael would call ahead and ask us to pull together a variety of books that we knew she would enjoy reading.
Over the last three years, we all grew uneasy when too long a time passed without seeing her, but invariably, she would surprise us by arriving in the late afternoon, pushing her walker — with great focus — to the bookcase holding new books.
I had a standing request that when Mary “Polly” Pratt-Thomas arrived at the Library Society, I was to be alerted so that I could come out front to greet her. It was always a highlight to my day, to my week.
Every time she came, she proudly told me — and often with a laugh and a nudge — “You know, Anne, I am the oldest member of the Library Society.” It was always such an uplifting announcement.
She took great joy in her membership; however, she took even greater joy in her reading. It was clear to all of us that the reason she was still so alert, conversant, and interesting originated with her passionate desire to read. She kept her mind nimble by exercising it with exposure to great stories and enriching history.
Mrs. Pratt-Thomas was a treasure to so many parts of the Charleston community. It was obvious that she was adored by four generations of her family, and the overflowing congregation at St. Phillips last Sunday affirmed that she was beloved by many friends as well.
She was such a special and dedicated member of the Library Society that two years ago her daughters, Shay and Dottie, helped us plan a surprise birthday party for her here.
Unfortunately, she was not well enough to make her pilgrimage up King Street that day, and I worried that perhaps at 98, she might not be able to continue her visits.
How wrong I was.
For two more years, she graced our Main Reading Room with her afternoon visits, and she continued to share her enthusiasm and indomitable spirit.
Her sons, Harold and Douglas, acknowledged that this year she was determined to reach her 100th birthday, which she did on November 19.
Although Mrs. Pratt-Thomas is gone in a physical sense, her spirit and love of books will continue to bless 164 King Street, and I hope she will serve as an example to others.
She will be missed profoundly, but she has left us a standard of humanity to admire forever.
Anne W. Cleveland
Charleston Library Society