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Published: Wednesday, 6/12/2002

Onsted library patron farmed in Adrian area

ADRIAN - Thomas Harland, 77, an unassuming farmer who played a major role a decade ago in helping to build a library in the nearby village of Onsted, died of a heart attack Saturday in the Lenawee Medical Care Facility.

Mr. Harland helped raise funds for the Onsted Branch Library, much of it his own money, Leona Harland, his wife, said. His donation, along with corporate donations and other contributions, allowed the library to move to a new building three times the size of the former cramped facility.

Mr. Harland made his contribution to the library in 1990 shortly after his first wife, the former Bertha Lownsberry, died. At that time, Leona was herself a recently widowed woman who was an assistant librarian.

She spent much of her spare time promoting efforts to raise money for a new library. Posters were sold, and schoolchildren collected pennies. Pancake suppers and square dances were sponsored for it. Still, the effort was well short of the local share needed for corporate donations.

Space was so tight, children's story hour at the library had to be moved to the nearby Oddfellows Hall.

One day, Mr. Harland walked in the library in bib overalls. He commented on one of the fund-raisers, telling his future wife he hadn't been in a library since high school. She chatted with him briefly about the library's money problem. “Tom said, `I think I can help. I will be back,'” Mrs. Harland said.

“He went away and came back a couple weeks later and asked if I would mind running that by him again,” she said. “He said when he came back, he would have a check.

“When he came back about a week later, he handed me a check for $50,000. That was a third of our goal,” with corporate sponsors pledging to help with the rest.

“I cried and cried,” she said. “He kept patting me on the head and saying. `Don't cry.' With the $50,000 and what we had raised, I knew the library was doable.”

They began dating, but only after Mrs. Harland's friends urged her to go out with him.

They married a year later.

Born in Canada, Mr. Harland was an infant when his family moved to Adrian and eventually settled on a farm outside the city.

Mr. Harland became a farmer.

Surviving are his wife, Leona; brother, Gordon; sister, Monica Frost; stepdaughters, Beth Pawson, Kathy Pickford, and Carol Eaton; step-grandsons, Jim and Kelby Pickford; step-great-grandson, Benji Pickford, and step-great-granddaughter, Mandi Foster.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in the Anderson Funeral Home. The family requests tributes to the Salvation Army, the Daily Bread of Lenawee, or the Alzheimer's Association.

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