By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
For more than a quarter-century, Lori Acton gave people of all ages a window to the world and beyond by opening the doors to them at the Laurel County Public Library.
On Wednesday, her colleagues and friends remembered Acton as a passionate advocate for inspiring others through the library’s staff, service and outreach programs.
Acton, the library’s district director since 1985, died Monday at her home in London. She was 57.
“The library was more than a job to Lori — it was her passion and she worked tirelessly to make the library a place everyone could come and enjoy and learn. From babies to senior, she wanted this library to offer whatever it could to enrich their lives and the community. We plan on working our hardest to make sure that Lori’s vision to the future continues,” the library’s deputy director, Peggy Mershon said Wednesday.
Another who knew Acton said she was the driving force in moving the library from its 4th Street location to its present home on College Park Drive in London, which opened in 2003.
“Her visionary leadership, enthusiasm and energy have been pivotal in creating a model of what a library can become in the 21st Century,” said R. W. Dyche III, president of the Laurel County Public Library’s Board of Trustees.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Dyche said two traits made Acton stand out above the crowd.
“Number one, she was full of enthusiasm. Lori pursued all goals with enthusiasm. It was her determination that led directly to the opening of the new library. Second, she had a lot of strengths. One of them was she was not afraid to hire extremely talented people to work for her. She’ll be remembered as a very happy person, so pleased to help people in Laurel and surrounding areas with their educational needs.”
To honor her memory, the main library and their branches in Corbin and North London were closed Tuesday.
A picture of Acton, along with the dates of her birth and death in white letters over a black background, was posted on the home page of the library’s website.
Kathryn Hardman was one of Acton’s closest friends. Together the two worked on improving literacy in the county, and also were active in community activities as members of the London Rotary Club.
She said in a phone interview Wednesday the news of Acton’s passing was still echoing over London and Laurel County.
“We’re all pretty shocked. It’s incomprehensible. She had a lot a friends in the community. She’s been a vital part of our community for 28 years. The community mourns this loss,” noted Hardman, who is the executive director of Laurel County Adult Education.
Hardman pointed out that because of Acton’s direction, the library spearheaded the creation of the program in 1986 to promote adult literacy. Acton was also on the board of directors of the Saint Joseph London Foundation.
There were other roles in Acton’s life. Hardman added, “Her most significant role was as mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend.”
“We’ve been having lunch for 25 years. We talked about our careers, our community, our nation, our families, and of course, politics. We both loved to talk about politics. It would be fair to say we both had strong opinions.”
Acton’s role as a Rotary member was extensive. At the time of her passing, she was looking forward to working on the annual Rotary International Dinner, a project Acton had headed for the past five years, and is sponsored by both the London and Corbin Rotary Clubs.
That passion Acton had with the library extended to her planning the dinner and to helping worthy causes, said Corbin Rotary Club member Rev. John Burkhart.
“Lori had a lot of energy, high spirits, and she laughed a lot. She was very polite, sociable and was an extraordinary Rotarian. She was lively, she’d ask a lot of questions to the speakers, and was very actively involved. Lori wasn’t a wallflower.”
Just before noon Wednesday, this message was posted on the library’s Facebook page:
“Lori Acton had an unwavering passion for this library, always striving to give her community what she felt was needed and deserved. Her enthusiasm, leadership and commitment will be missed by all of us. Please remember her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.”
Several who knew Acton responded in kind. One person wrote, “Lori was a wonderful librarian and inspired me to become a librarian. I will miss seeing her on my visits home.”
Another said, “I smile (through) my tears when I think of Lori. She just ALWAYS had a smile and a laugh when you saw her. Always making you feel real special. How I loved her passion for life.”
Lori Holzworth Acton was a native of Sterling, Colo., located northeast of Denver near the Wyoming border. She is survived by her husband and four children. Her mother, two sisters and a brother also survive. Visitation is at 11 a.m. Saturday at House-Rawlings Funeral Home in London, with funeral services Saturday at 1 p.m. in the funeral home’s chapel with Rev. Wade Arp officiating. Burial will follow at A. R. Dyche Memorial Cemetery in London, with House-Rawlings Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.