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Artwork fitting tribute to former Baldwin librarian

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:52 p.m.
South Hills Record
Faculty and staff at Baldwin High School purchase art in memory of teachers who passed away. The most recent, an oil painting of the Tuscan countryside, is to honor Patti Tranquilli, former BHS library who passed away in August. Laura Van Wert | South Hills Record
South Hills Record
Faculty and staff at Baldwin High School purchase art in memory of teachers who passed away. The most recent, an oil painting of the Tuscan countryside, is to honor Patti Tranquilli, former BHS library who died in August. Laura Van Wert | South Hills Record
South Hills Record
An example of artwork at purchased by faculty and staff at Baldwin High School in memory of teachers who passed away. Laura Van Wert | South Hills Record

An oil painting of the Tuscan countryside hangs on the wall of Baldwin High School's library, reminding students and staff of the legacy left by Patti Tranquilli, who had a vision for the space long before Google or texting.

Tranquilli, who served as the building's librarian until she retired seven years ago, died Aug. 20 at age 65.

“There were so many people in this building who were touched by her,” said Brigetta Hannah, the school's librarian. “Her entire career was here ... this was her space.”

Funerals, viewings and memorial masses, of course, are ways to mourn a loved one. The faculty and staff at Baldwin High School honor those employees who died with art and furniture prominently displayed around the building.

The memorials are reminders of those who shaped the building and those who passed through it.

“It's more that there's a way to pay tribute to people who have given their life to this school,” Hannah said.

Several years before the 2009 completion of a $65 million remodeling project at Baldwin High School, there was a minor facelift to the building's cafeterias and library, Hannah said. Tranquilli, who served as librarian at the time, helped shape the larger, more open library space.

“She was consulted, obviously, on almost everything ... We didn't even have Google then,” Hannah said. “She knew computers would be the future ... that's just a follow-through, I think, of Patti's perceived vision.”

Tranquilli's painting is the most recent addition to the space, which houses other works of art honoring deceased teachers. A small statue of Auguste Rodin's “The Thinker” sits on the library's main counter space as a tribute to JoAnne Schindler, former French teacher.

A framed print of Pablo Picasso's “Don Quixote” hangs on the wall next to the room's entrance as a reminder of Larry Roman, former Spanish teacher, who dressed up as the Man of La Mancha each Halloween.

“We have works that are ancient. Why shouldn't the space chronicle the history of the school?” Hannah said. “That's why I think the library is perfect.”

But faculty and staff memorials are not limited to the library.

Glen Crawford's industrial technology class is making a bench in honor of Mike Hodermarsky, a custodian who worked for the district for nine years before he died in February. The bench is scheduled to go in one of the building's atriums.

Likewise, Baldwin-Whitehall School District has a policy that a book will be dedicated in one of the libraries when a staff member, his or her spouse, child or parent passes away. Family or the librarians choose the subject of the book.

“I'd like to believe that I left a mark on this school,” Hannah said. “We're trying to positively impact the students.”

Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at lvanwert@tribweb.com.

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