William Dameron

January 11, 1924 ‒ December 14, 2009

Gambier, Ohio

William T. “Bill” Dameron, former head librarian at Kenyon, died this morning at the Country Club Retirement Campus in Mount Vernon. He was eighty-five and had suffered strokes in August and about five years ago.

Bill was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, a patron of the performing arts, and a collector of books and music with epicurean tastes. Foremost, he was a librarian and served Kenyon in that role from 1970 through 1986.

“I saw him as the grand old librarian – a real librarian, in the historic sense of what a librarian does and knows,” said Jami Peele, who was hired by Bill for the circulation desk in 1977 and is now the faculty grants and fellowships coordinator. Bill hired Donna Wilson as director of technical services in 1985, and they became long-time friends. Wilson, now retired, said, “Bill had very high standards, both personally and professionally, which he maintained throughout his life.”

Bill directed the library during the construction of the Olin Library and influenced the internal planning as designed by architects Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott. He oversaw the transfer of about 260,000 books into the new building in 1986. He had a keen interest in the library’s special collections and archives and spearheaded acquisition of the typography collection of items relating to the history of books and printing.

Historian Tom Stamp ’73 was a sophomore when he met Bill and came to know him as someone who “cared intensely about books and about the written word” and as a “wonderful librarian.” Based on instructions from Bill, Stamp has in recent months overseen the donation to Kenyon of many books of poetry, including significant first-editions, and albums featuring jazz, musical theater, and opera from Bill’s collection.

His love of the performing arts helped define his life. Bill saved the programs from every production he attended. He was often seen at musical and theatrical productions at Kenyon and in Columbus, a tradition that started in 1939, when he saved nickels from his school milk money to collect enough for a ticket to see Helen Hayes perform on stage in Cincinnati, where he grew up after his family moved from Long Island in New York. The greatest day of his life, he told friends, was when he saw the actors John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier in separate Shakespearean dramas on the London stage while stationed in England during World War II.

Bill served in the U.S. Army Air Forces, on the crew of a B-17 bomber nicknamed the Shady Lady. He participated in D-Day operations in 1944 and later earned a Purple Heart medal for wounds suffered from shrapnel. He “cut a dashing figure in his flight jacket,” Stamp observed.

Bill went on to graduate from Columbia University in 1950, with the help of the G.I. Bill. He later earned a master’s degree in English literature and a master’s in library science at the University of Michigan. He worked for General Electric in Cincinnati, the Public Library of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan Law Library before arriving at Kenyon.

In recent years, Bill became close friends with Gambier carpenter Jack Esslinger, who had done some work on Bill’s Gambier home. A single man, Bill treated Esslinger as a son, and they enjoyed weekly lunches. “He was a very thoughtful and considerate friend, but a private and reserved person. Very intellectual,” Esslinger said. “He was very well-read, with a vast collection of books and a music collection. Our relationship wasn’t so much intellectual as it was a strong, human bond. I will miss him like a father.”

A private burial is scheduled. The Dowds-Snyder Funeral Home assisted with arrangements.

This obituary and guest registry are online at www.snyderfuneralhomes.com