Mulberry Public Library will be renamed in honor of the father of two Mulberry residents who, with their spouses, donated $100,000 toward a library expansion.
Mulberry’s library will be renamed the Ralph D. Graf Library of Mulberry after the late father of Paul Graf and his sister Donna Moore, who, with their respective spouses Patty Page and Mulberry City Councilman Jimmy Moore, donated $100,000 for an expansion of the library that will include a new children’s wing.
“This is a big deal for our community,” said Mulberry Mayor Gary Baxter. “In a small community like Mulberry, the library is a real focal point.”
Receiving the $100,000 donation along with $40,178 raised by the Friends of the Mulberry Public Library helped the city qualify for grants for construction of the expansion, Baxter said.
“You leading the way on this through your donation has brought this project into fruition,” Baxter told the two couples.
Jimmy Moore made the original suggestion for the two couples to donate the money in honor of his father-in-law, he said.
“We just thought it would be a good opportunity to give back to the community where not only we have spent our lives, but also our father-in-law spent his life, and at the same time honor a great man,” Jimmy Moore said.
Ralph Graf was a World War II army veteran who was the recipient of at least three Bronze Stars for his actions in combat, Paul Graf said. He also received a Purple Heart after he was injured in combat, Paul Graf said.
“A land mine went off near him and killed his foxhole mate; he had shrapnel in his leg the rest of his life,” Paul Graf said.
Ralph Graf and his wife Mary Katherine Graf were life-long Mulberry natives, Paul Graf said.
“Mom and dad lived here all of their lives and were good solid people that minded their business and took care of their family,” Paul Graf said. “I like to think they were fair, but strict disciplinarians.”
Jimmy Moore called Ralph Graf an “honest” and “humble” man of the “highest integrity,” and the “most self-disciplined person I have ever met.”
“He was very humble; he didn’t want any recognition - and he wouldn’t want this recognition, I’m sure,” Jimmy Moore said, “but we want to give it to him.”
Ralph Graf, who worked as a postal carrier, made it a priority to be at every stop at the same time each day, Jimmy Moore said. He also was a civic leader who served on the school board and was a member of the Lions Club and First Baptist Church.
Naming the library after Ralph Graf will help the Graf name live on, Page said.
“You’re leaving a legacy for your dad’s name … and you’re leaving a legacy for yourselves,” Baxter said. “Your name will live on because of your generous donation.”
Included in the expansion will be a children’s wing on the north side of the building and an extension on the front that will expand the library’s teen room - what is now the children’s room - and the conference room.
Attendance to the library has grown too much to be contained in the small spaces available, said Mulberry Public Library branch director Robin Egerton.
“We have had such an increase in attendance that we had to take many of our summer reading programs off site because we did not have enough room for our children and their parents,” Egerton said. “On Thursdays we have three programs going on simultaneously - it’s very crowded.”
The expansion is expected to nearly double the size of the current library, Egerton said.
“We’ll be able to offer more versatile and high quality programming if we have a larger space dedicated to the children,” Egerton said.
Work to raise money for an expansion began about three years ago. Friends of the Mulberry Public Library president Vonna Steele recognized the need for an expansion in August 2014 and initiated fundraising soon after, she said.
In November 2014, Tommy Meadors donated $25,000 for the library expansion in honor of his wife, Wanda Meadors, Steele said.
Wanda Meadors works closely with the library on various children’s programs and volunteers both time and money on a regular basis.
Because of the donation and Wanda Meadors’ “significant contribution to children’s programming,” the children’s wing will be named after Wanda Meadors, Baxter said.
Soon after the Meadors donation, Jimmy Moore told Steele his family planned to donate $100,000, and the donation was confirmed when the city applied for a grant in 2016.
Along with the $140,178 in private donations, the City of Mulberry also received a $185,912 Arkansas Economic Development Commission grant and a $50,000 USDA Rural Development grant to go toward the expansion construction.
Groundbreaking for the project is set for mid-December, and construction is expected to take about six months, Baxter said.