MONROE - The latest gift to the Monroe County Library System is a history buff's dream, especially for George Armstrong Custer enthusiasts.
The library has received a collection of books on Custer, the Civil War, and Native Americans.
Donated by advertising agency and hobby store chain owner Peter Warrick of Fort Lauderdale, the books represent one of the most significant donations of books to the library's George Armstrong Custer Collection. Mr. Warrick died last May at the age 62.
"Many of the books are first editions and are signed by the authors.
Some date back to the late 1880s. They are very valuable," Charmaine Wawrzyniec, curator of the collection, said.
Born in Detroit in 1947, Mr. Warrick attended he Hall of the Divine Child, a military school in Monroe founded by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Joan Croy, a longtime friend of the businessman, said Mr. Warrick's devotion to the Army veteran of the Civil War and the Indian Wars that followed began as a boy when he was given a replica of a U.S. Cavalry uniform to wear.
Then a volunteer at the Monroe County Historical Museum, Mrs. Croy met Mr. Warrick nearly 25 years ago when she was working at the gift shop.
Through the years, they took trips to Civil War and western Indian War battlefield sites and attended conferences of the Little Big Horn Associates.
"He knew everything that was in the Custer exhibit at the museum. He had a lot of interests," she said.
An avid collector, Mr. Warrick amassed an extensive collection of books about Custer and the Civil War. Many of the titles were obtained by Mrs. Croy, who forwarded the books to Mr. Warrick in Florida.
Some years ago, Mr. Warrick, then ailing from heart problems, sought her advice on what to do with the collection. She suggested that he donate the books to the library.
"He loved Monroe and the library. The George Armstrong Collection seemed a perfect fit for the books," Mrs. Croy said.
The books will augment the George Armstrong Custer Collection, which is a multimedia resource and reference center specializing in the life and related issues of the controversial military hero.
Mr. Warrick, who moved to Florida after leaving Monroe, graduated from Fort Lauderdale High School in 1966 and attended Broward Community College.
He was hired at Burger King Corp. as an hourly employee and worked his way up to regional manager, leaving in 1973 to concentrate on his own business, Warrick Custom Hobbies, which was renamed Warrick Hobby Superstore.
His business interests expanded in 1974 to owning a Vespa dealership in Fort Lauderdale that later became a Yamaha scooter store. In 1986, he started an advertising agency, Southeast Publications, in Fort Lauderdale.
Mrs. Wawrzyniec said the library retained about 3,400 titles that were culled from more than 4,000 books in the collection.
The library sent duplicate books to Big Horn Public Library in Hardin, Mont., for the institution's special collection focusing on Custer.
The collection will be available to the public in January upon completion of the expansion project at the Ellis Reference and Information Center, 3700 South Custer Rd.
Mrs. Wawrzyniec said material in the Custer reference collection can be made available to patrons at other library branches.
And, "the addition of the Peter Warrick collection to our system allows us to fill in specific gaps that appear in our George Armstrong Custer Collection along with adding books that would not usually be available to our patrons," she said.