The Dover Public Library will name its Teen Loft after the late Councilwoman Sophia Russell in honor of her work for local youths during a dedication scheduled for Saturday morning.
Russell, 64, died Oct. 6 at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital after her second bout with cancer.
The Dover Library Foundation met shortly after Russell's passing and voted to name the Teen Loft after Russell as the most appropriate gesture for her, Dover Library Director Margie Cyr said.
"At one time, the Teen Loft was removed from the plan because of funding, and she spearheaded the effort to get the teen loft back and funded," Cyr said.
The Teen Loft is a special section of the library on the third floor built specifically for teenagers. Cyr said. All the materials, books and audio books and activities for teens take place in that space.
During her tenure on council, Russell served as chairwoman of the Parks, Recreation & Enhancement Committee. When it began, the $20 million library project was placed as a recurring item on the committee's agenda, Cyr said. Russell's committee was the first committee that would receive and review plans and funding suggestions for the project. The committee would give the initial approval and then forwarded those on to Dover City Council.
"Mrs. Russell was always a great library supporter," Cyr said. "She always believed in the role the library played in the lives of the youth. She always wanted to ensure that there was always a place in Dover where the youth could go to learn and find enrichment. For her, the library fulfilled that need."
Russell was initially diagnosed with uterine cancer in September 2011. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy and appeared to have beaten the disease. However, she was given a diagnosis of lung cancer on Aug. 10 and was absent from thereon out from council.
Russell first won election to council for the 4th District in 2005, when a special election was held to replace the late Councilman John W. Pitts, who had died while in office.
Former city chaplain Wallace Dixon won the Nov. 27 special election held to replace Russell. Dixon was sworn in on Monday night.
At that meeting, Council President Thomas Leary announced the planned dedication for Russell. Leary talked about Russell as council was set to approve the new Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Leary noted that he and Russell were only a few years apart and lived within five miles of each other while growing up in Dover. They never interacted due to the circumstances of a bygone era, but Leary was happy to get to know Russell during their time on council, Leary said.
"I was the better for it," he said, a hint of emotion in his voice.
Page 2 of 2 - The renaming of Dover Public Library's Teen Loft was a fitting tribute given her devotion to youth in the city and her chairmanship of the library committee, Leary said.
"She did a lot of work for kids in the community, frequently spending her own money for events for teens or younger kids in the neighborhood, especially this time of year," Leary said.
The 11 a.m. dedication ceremony is open to the public, Cyr said. Refreshments will be served afterward.