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Bronze plaque at Toledo library honors work of Millie Benson

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    Sheila Odesky of the library board unveils a Literary Landmark to honor Millie Benson for her writing career. The event concided with the Nancy Drew Sleuths convention.

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    The marquee in the Children's Library welcomes Nancy Drew Sleuths to the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

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    Benson

    BLADE

A bronze plaque celebrating Toledo’s connection to the fictional teenage sleuth Nancy Drew, whose feisty wit won her generations of fans, was unveiled Saturday at the Toledo-Lucas County Main Library.

The plaque marks the site as a Literary Landmark through the American Library Association’s United for Libraries division and honors Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew mysteries under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Mrs. Benson died in 2002 and worked for decades as a reporter for The Blade and the former Toledo Times.

The first Nancy Drew books were released 85 years ago, and this year also marks the 110th anniversary of Mrs. Benson’s birthday.

The beloved character she introduced to so many young readers remains popular.

“I was a very quiet child, so I actually lived all my adventures through her,” said Marie Grundy of Toledo, who brought her 11-year-old daughter Emma to the library for the event.

Emma is now discovering Nancy Drew books and feels a bond with the book’s brave heroine because they have the same hair color and she understands “how she’s feeling.”

“She stole my books, and she just loves them,” her mother said.

Saturday’s event was timed to coincide with a convention held by Nancy Drew Sleuths, which counts more than 650 fans as members. The club is holding multiple conventions this year and selected Toledo as one of its sites, said club president Jennifer Fisher of Arizona. “They really rolled out the red carpet for Millie and Nancy Drew,” she said of the library event and related proclamation and resolution presentations from the mayor and city council.

More than 50 people attended an informational program by Ms. Fisher, who is working on a biography of Mrs. Benson, and then walked over to the children’s section to see the plaque’s unveiling.

Nancy Eames, the library’s youth services coordinator who worked on the application for the designation, said there are about 120 Literary Landmarks across the country that recognize important literary sites and deceased literary figures. This year, United for Libraries made a special effort to recognize children’s-book authors.

“Benson’s Nancy Drew was a trailblazing and independent sleuth who inspired and motivated generations of readers,” the plaque reads in part.

Lois Kovar, Mrs. Benson’s great-niece from Victor, Iowa, also made the trip to Toledo.

Ms. Kovar’s mother still lives in the house where the writer was born, and Mrs. Benson’s identity as a Nancy Drew author was a well-kept family secret. Ms. Kovar read Nancy Drew books when she was a child, but she stayed quiet about the family connection. “She always told me, don’t tell anyone, you’ll get me in trouble.” 

The plaque’s sponsors include the Library Legacy Foundation, Nancy Drew Sleuths, and The Blade.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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