Carnegie descendant visits his Oakmont library

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The Oakmont Carnegie Library had a special visitor this past week -- the great-granddaughter of the library's founder, Andrew Carnegie.

"At first I thought someone was pulling my leg," said library director Beth Mellor, who received an email last Monday morning -- "completely out of the blue" -- requesting the visit for Linda Thorell Hills, one of 13 surviving great-grandchildren of the Scottish-American industrialist.

"I never thought in my career I would meet a Carnegie."

Ms. Hills lives in Littleton, Colo., and returns to Pittsburgh as an executive committee member of the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, which carries out the work the philanthropist started a century ago to honor heroic acts.

Ms. Hills, her husband Harold and Walter Rutkowski, the commission's executive director and secretary, toured the library for about 25 minutes Tuesday evening. "We talked a lot about her great-grandfather's vision for libraries," Ms. Mellor said Friday.

"Carnegie would be pleased with the way things are being done," Mr. Rutkowski added about the tour.

The library on Allegheny River Boulevard opened in 1901.

"We're among one of the first," said Ms. Mellor, who has been Oakmont director since early 2010 but has worked in libraries for years. The first in the United States, the Carnegie Free Library of Braddock, opened in 1889.

Carnegie died in 1919.

The Oakmont library has two sections. "The original older part of the library is the 1901 side," Ms. Mellor explained. "It had built-in bookcases and high, vaulted ceilings, and I pointed out it looks like a traditional Carnegie library. In 2006, we built a section to match the old."

Ms. Hills, now in her mid-60s, has been a member of the Hero Fund Commission executive board for seven years. The commission is expected to announce 13 Hero Fund recipients next week, Mr. Rutkowski said.

Carnegie originally had 15 great-grandchildren, but two have died.

"His daughter Margaret had four children, and these [great-grandchildren] are their children," Ms. Mellor said.

books

Pohla Smith: psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228.


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