Rappahannock library receives $1 million bequest from long-time patron

Important to be ‘good stewards’ of this generous gift

Mary E. Henry Rudacille at her home in Annandale before moving to Rixeyville. Rudacille, also known as “Bunny,” lived with her husband and worked as a secretary in Washington, DC. Courtesy photo

Every Wednesday for 20 years before her death in April 2016, Rixeyville resident Mary Rudacille visited the Rappahannock County Public Library. She would greet librarian Dave Shaffer and others, making small talk about the weather before perusing the aisles.

“She was very retiring and unassuming,” says Shaffer. “She was a nice lady who came in every Wednesday and we would say ‘How are you?’ And she would say ‘It’s a lovely day.’”

So when he received the news last April that Rudacille, who passed away in April 2017, had left the library over $1 million in her will, he was more than surprised.

“I was absolutely floored to receive a call from Wells Fargo that Mary had left us a bequest of over a million dollars” he says.

Was there anything in her will to describe her intentions?

“She never said anything like ‘I wish you had a garden or I wish you had more of something,’ nothing that gave us any indication [of how we might use her gift] other than she just came and she liked using the library,” says Shaffer. “And we certainly never expected [the gift]. We never solicited it. We just got the call.”

Now the question is what to do with the generous gift.

The library board of trustees is taking its time considering how to use Mary’s endowment.

“We feel very honored to have received this gift,” says library trustee Fran Krebser. “I think where we are now as a board is trying to proceed slowly and very thoughtfully about how we can honor Mary’s gift and be good stewards of it. And extend and enhance our services to the county. We want to give that a lot of thought. We want to get input from the public. It’s very exciting.”

Says Ruth Stolk, treasure of the board of trustees: “Our number one priority would be to use this windfall to ensure the future of the library.”

After that, says Stolk, the goal is to make the library even more user friendly to the community than it already is.

Finally, the board — along with the Friends of the Library and the broader community — “wants to be part of a broader vision for how we serve the community.”

Miss ‘Bunny’

Nobody remembers how Rudacille got the nickname “Bunny,” but it was what all her friends called her, including Deacon Eugene H. Cook and Deaconess Reva E. Cook, Rudacille’s neighbors and close friends.

“We called her Miss Bunny,” says Reva, who met Rudacille when her car broke down on the road near her home.

“We stopped and helped her,” Eugene added. And they became fast friends.

After Rudacille suffered a stroke and was unable to drive, Reva would drive her to the library for her regular Wednesday visit.

Rudacille, who was raised by her grandmother in Front Royal, was an avid reader, according to the Cooks: “She would show up at the library with a shopping bag and fill it up with books to take home. She would have lists of new books she wanted to find.”

Rudacille would make a thorough circuit around the new books and up and down the stacks.

Although, according to Shaffer, Rudacille “would check out a very eclectic mix of things.”

The Cooks say Miss Bunny was partial to histories, especially about the kings and queens of England. And she read a wide assortment of magazines.

They were also able to shed some light on why Rudacille was so fond of the Rappahannock County Library. “The library was so good to her, [the people] were very helpful and kind.”

And did Reva know what Rudacille might have had in mind for her gift to the library?

“Oh, yes,” she says, “Miss Bunny said the library needs more books.”

About Patty Hardee 271 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.