Williamstown residents Aaron and Brenda Fitzgerald have created a little free library in memory of their daughter that opened at the family’s Battles Road home on what would have been Mary Ann Fitzgerald’s 9th birthday.
Along with Brenda’s sister, Trish Miracle-Botley, the Fitzgeralds worked on the effort through the month of October, so Mary Ann’s Little Free Library could debut on their daughter’s birthday, Oct. 27.
Little free libraries are weather-resistant, freestanding book boxes that encourage book sharing in their communities.
“I think she would really like this,” Brenda said of her daughter’s library. “October was a really tough month, and for some reason this year, I felt it was harder. This kept both of us busy.”
Mary Ann died in 2016 from Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, which affects children 1 year or older and can remain a mystery even after a full investigation. She was 11 days from her 5th birthday.
“This is all for her,” Aaron said of the library. “Every year, we try to think of something to do for her. It’s hard, because she can’t have a birthday like a regular kid.”
The day of Mary Ann’s death was like any other the family spent together: The girl had soccer practice and a birthday party the day before. The next morning, Aaron found his daughter had died in her sleep. The Fitzgeralds now have an 18 month-old baby boy named Maverick Ace.
“She was our only child and we spoiled her,” Brenda said of her daughter. “She was a tomboy and a girly girl. She was the best of both worlds.
“She was our world, and we never really did anything except do things with her.”
The Fitzgeralds requested book donations on social media pages and the community came through with daily boxes and bags full of books. Other families affected by SUDC donated titles their children had loved, while family and friends sent books to the home through Amazon.
“I thought that was going to be one of our biggest issues, not having enough books for the library,” Aaron recalled. “As soon as we started posting, people kept donating them.”
Aaron built the library completely by hand; the original result was too small, according to his wife. So they made a larger one and gave it Miracle-Botley, who painted its surface with meaningful artwork that included flowers with different meanings, such as lilies that symbolize innocence and the soul of the departed. She also painted a cardinal on the side as a symbol of loved ones visiting after their passing.
The back of the library is also adorned with Mary Ann’s name in her own hand with a heart colored purple, her favorite color.
“Even if people don’t use it, I hope it makes their day,” Brenda noted. “Even if people just walk by it and see how pretty it is.”
The library includes a small bench with a flower pot; the Fitzgeralds plan to change its contents with the season.
To visit the library at 33 Battles Road, search at https://littlefreelibrary.org, using the charter number 110829. The family asks people who visit to take books home, since donations have outgrown space.