About Margaret Perry (Hepburn)
Margaret "Peg" Perry, a sister of actress Katharine Hepburn and longtime Canton librarian who was a great character in her own right, died at her home Monday. She was 85.
Known for her love of books, her strong opinions and sense of humor, Perry lived in Canton Center for 60 years. For 35 of those years, she served as librarian for the Canton Public Library, stepping down in 1999 after the town opened a new, modern library to replace the cluttered repository on Center Street that she ruled for 21 years.
Patrons learned that Perry could find any book, article or archive within the library's holdings. She was known to regale visitors by reading aloud a letter from her more famous sister, her gravely voice eerily similar to Kate's. But woe to an overdue borrower who might have Perry show up at his or her front door.
"She was one of the first people I met when I moved to town many years ago," First Selectwoman Mary Tomolonius said. "She was just a great, great individual."
Tomolonius said Perry, a heavy smoker, was often seen puffing away outside the library after smoking was banned inside public buildings.
"She was constantly telling me that
when I'm 90 I expect you to call NBC and arrest me in town hall,'" Tomolonius said.
The daughter of Thomas Hepburn, a prominent Hartford physician, and Katharine Houghton Hepburn, Perry graduated from Bennington College and moved to Canton Center with her husband, Thomas, in 1946. They took up residence in a stone farmhouse on Barbourtown Road and raised five children.
Perry first became involved in library work when her children were young. She was among a group of mothers who started the library at Cherry Brook Elementary School, and would later establish the high school library. In the 1950s, she took a paid part-time position as children's librarian at the public library. She became the library's director in 1978.
Friends recalled her kindness, how she would bake homemade bread for friends or take in someone under her roof who was down on his or her luck.
"Her legacy is her love of the library and her love of the town," said former first selectwoman Kathy Corkum, who had known Perry for 40 years.
When the new town library on Dyer Avenue opened in 1999, Perry was recognized as semi-retired librarian emeritus and given a suite of two small rooms to pursue her passion for local history.
"She just knew that you could lose your local history and it was up to the library to keep track of it," said current librarian Kathleen Cockcroft, who last saw Perry at the library on Friday.
A town constable, Perry was re-elected last November, once again, Corkum said, as highest vote-getter.
Perry is survived by her daughter, Margaret Obermeyer of Aspen, Colo.; and three sons, Robert G. Perry of Great Barrington, Mass., and Scott H. and Lansford W. Perry, both of Canton Center; and a brother, Robert Hepburn of Canton. A son, Thomas Perry, died before her.
Source: The Smoer's Club