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Spakowski Reading Nook Unveiled

When North Olmsted (and formerly Westlake) resident Joan Mary Spakowski passed away over a year ago in December 2017, the field of education lost an important supporter.

According to her obituary, Joan was an elementary and middle school teacher who instilled in her pupils a love of science, ecology, and good grammar. For more than 40 years, she taught in North Olmsted, and upon retirement, tutored English for Adult Education programs. She piloted and co-authored environmental science programs that were used on both the state and national levels. As a lifelong learner herself, she regularly took art classes at Baldwin Wallace College, workshops in education, and read many genres extensively. In her daughters, she instilled “a solid work ethic, the knowledge that women have a place in the workforce, a fabulous fashion sense, and a love of gardening, decorating, and reading.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations be made to Seeds of Literacy.

Interestingly, neither Joan nor her late husband Adolph had worked or volunteered with Seeds during their lifetimes. Their adult daughters, however, found Seeds online and felt it was the perfect organization to receive a gift in honor of their parents.

But the family’s support didn’t end there. After her mother’s passing, daughter Barbara Slatt kept up with Seeds online. She was particularly taken with an outdoor photograph from Seeds’ 2018 Graduation and felt it would be the perfect place for a reading bench. Unfortunately, Seeds had rented the venue for graduation, and both Seeds locations are located in the inner city, without any greenspace for a proper reading bench.

Undeterred, Ms. Slatt and her sisters brainstormed with Seeds’ staff about other options to honor their parents while supporting the organization. It didn’t take long for the perfect idea to form.

In December 2018, nearly one year after Joan’s death, the Spakowski Reading Nook was dedicated at Seeds of Literacy’s East location. With funds from the Spakowski family, a narrow, awkward space in the back of the classroom was transformed to a cozy reading nook.

Green paint adorned the walls, and an oversized rocking chair, cozy bench (with storage), and lamp were purchased. Staff donated a few small plants and tutors brought in cushions.

The most precious part of the nook is the tribute plaque at the entrance that reads: 

Come sit with a favorite book
In this special reading nook.
In loving memory of our parents
who instilled in their daughters
a love of books and learning.

The Spakowski Reading Nook was completed just in time for students to return from Winter Break and the launch of the #ReadingChallenge.

“It has been an absolute joy working with this family on this memorial gift project,” said Development Director Jo Steigerwald. “Joan and Adolph will live on through this special place in our classroom. We are so grateful to Barbara and the entire family for honoring us with this gift.”

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Joan and Adolph, we may not have known you in life, but we will always be grateful to you! Thank you, Spakowski Family!