When Laurina "Laura" Harper stopped by the Grove City Library with her niece Dec. 19, she was on an errand of giving, even though it was her 95th birthday.

"We were stopping by to donate some books," Harper said.

Although Harper, who is president emeritus of the Friends of the Southwest Public Libraries Board and a long-time member of the Women's Civic Club of Grove City, noticed several members of both groups were at the library, she said she didn't think anything of it.

Then came the surprise.

Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage arrived and presented Harper with a proclamation declaring January 2018 as Laurina Harper Month in Grove City.

"It was a big surprise," Harper said. "I'm still dumbfounded. For the mayor to do this, it's just so generous. I don't deserve half of all this attention. I'm overwhelmed."

The ceremony was held in Harper's Grove, the early-literacy section of the library's youth-services department.

Harper's Grove was established with a $100,000 donation Harper made in honor of her late husband, John, and his aunt, Irene Harper, who served as the Southwest Public Libraries' first librarian from 1924-34.

Harper's Grove has been one of the most popular features of the new library building since it opened in October 2016, said Mark Shaw, SPL director.

"She's so deserving of this recognition," Shaw said. "Laura's a wonderful person and has been such an incredible friend of the library," he said. "It's not just Harper's Grove. She's given so much ."

The entire community has benefited from Harper's spirit of giving back, said Carol Rorick, president of the Friends board.

"Her commitment to her community and to making it better is huge," Rorick said. "Laura's a tremendous role model for us all."

Every year, Harper bakes pineapple upside-down cakes for the Civic Club to sell at the Grove City farmers market, she said.

Harper also serves as president emeritus of the Grove City Cancer Thrift Shop's board.

"She's been involved with the thrift shop for 37 years," Rorick said. "Her dedication to that program is just another example of her servant heart. She's so connected to the idea of giving and serving where she can.

"And she's got such a wonderful sense of humor," Rorick said. "She's a delight."

The library holds a special place in her heart, given her husband's aunt's fundamental role in helping to establish it in Grove City, Harper said.

As a retired educator, she was thrilled her donation helped to create the library's early literacy section, she said.

"I just love coming to the library and seeing all of the kids in the library," Harper said. "I love hearing them tell their parents, 'I don't want to go home yet.' It gives me a lot of joy."

Harper's niece, Eileen Justus, was in town to spend the holidays with her aunt, who now lives in Orient, and other family members.

She said it was fun to be in on the surprise, as she suggested to her aunt that maybe they could stop by the library.

"My aunt is so deserving of this," Justus said. "She's the center of our family and been an example for all of us of the kind of person you want to be."

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