It’s been a busy spring for Friends of the Homer Library coordinator, Mercedes Harness. From the Big Read to the book and plant sale, Harness — along with numerous volunteers and board members — has been working on behalf of the FHL to promote what she describes as one of Homer’s favorite places: the library.
Next up: The Celebration of Lifelong Learning, 7 p.m. Saturday at the library, in recognition of both lifelong learner and a youth learner.
“We are a community that celebrates learning,” wrote Harness by email. “This is an opportunity to honor Milli Martin who has dedicated herself to being a lifelong learner, and Eryn Gillam who is just embarking on that journey.”
This year, the celebration features a keynote presentation by former Alaska State Writer Laureate, 2014-2016, Frank Soos.
“His essays take the reader on an intellectual journey, and as a teacher and speaker he is engaging and thought provoking,” wrote Harness. “He also has a good sense of humor.”
A silent auction, catering by Wild Honey Bistro, music by Eric Fenger and a trivia tree will round out the celebration, which is one of the two annual fundraising events held by the FHL. (The other is the spring book and plant sale.)
Milli Martin: Lifelong Learner
Daisy Lee Bitter, a Lifelong Learner herself, nominated Martin for this year’s award.
“She gives so freely of herself to help other people,” said Bitter, adding that Martin’s ethics, ability to stay active, and her value for education were also reasons for her nomination.
“She makes an excellent role model for others,” said Bitter.
Martin says she was surprised when she learned she was this year’s recipient.
“You get involved in your community because you love it — and you don’t expect recognition,” she said, then added with a chuckle, “But this is going to be fun.”
Now in her 80th year, Martin has stayed active in the community since she moved here in 1980 after her husband retired from the United States Air Force. Before they were transferred from Alaska to Texas in 1968, the couple bought property on Skyline Drive.
“We knew we were coming back here…I knew I was going to end my life in Alaska,” she said.
Along with their two boys, ages 11 and 12 at the time, Martin said they worked hard, by hand, to settle on the property before freeze up. Now those two boys are in their 40s. David is a crab boat skipper, and Rick is a dentist.
Although Martin and her husband later divorced, she still lives on that original property, along with her horse, Rebel, and a cat named Oreo.
An avid traveler when she came to Alaska in the 1960s, Martin says now, she enjoys doing her traveling within the state.
Along with a love for exploration and the outdoors, Martin is a skier, a writer — she’s got a book in the top-drawer collection at the library titled The Mary Lane Trail — and a gardener.
Since moving to Homer, Martin has served on the Board of Education for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Borough Assembly, and boards and committees including Homer Electric Association, KBBI Public Radio, the parks and recreation commission, the Kenai Peninsula College Advisory Board and the Pratt Museum.
She is currently on the board for Kachemak Emergency Services, and volunteers on Mondays with the Homer Chamber of Commerce. An honorary member of Delta Kappa Gamma teachers organization, Martin is also part of a writing group, was the Homer Citizen of the year in 1992 and has attended Faith Lutheran Church for more than 20 years.
When she decided to finish her associates’ degree in 1990, Martin said she practically lived at the library. And, although her degree is done, she still enjoys taking writing — and other classes of interest — at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kachemak Bay Campus.
“It’s fun. It’s fun to go back,” she said. “There’s always something new going on.”
Eryn Gillam: Youth Learner
While math and biology are subjects that youth learner, sixteen-year-old Eryn Gillam, says she loves, she adds that there are no topics she doesn’t enjoy learning about.
While growing up in Homer, Gillam says she has been inspired by all of the different community members who have taught her over the years.
“I was and am honored and excited to receive this award, especially because I’ve been attending library programs since I was a little kid,” she wrote in an email.
Gillam is a member of the Homer High School band, has just finished her fourth year on the school’s Drama, Debate and Forensics team and is a regular volunteer for the library’s Maker Club – an after school program for children ages 8-12 with a focus on creating and building. She also worked at the library last summer.
Gillam will graduate from HHS this spring and plans to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.