Library meeting room dedicated to Ed and Shirley Yeager

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
The Van Buren Public Library dedicated its meeting room to Ed and Shirly Yeager on March 28. The Yeagers donated the land that the library currently sits on in 2005.

The meeting room at the Van Buren Public Library has been dedicated to Ed and Shirley Yeager. 

Ed Yeager died in 2020 and had a long history in Van Buren. He owned Yeager Ace Hardware, which has locations in Fort Smith, Van Buren, and Greenwood.

The land the library currently sits on was once owned by the Yeagers who donated the land. The library has a long history in Van Buren as it started in 1899. At the time, the Women's Literary Club established a shelf of books for public use in the side room of the Crawford County Bank. 

Due to demand, a building on South Fifth Street was offered to the literary club for use as a library. in 1924, the library grew and moved into an old Presbyterian church on Webster Street. The library moved once again to North 12th Street in 1973 where it stayed until 2011. 

In 2005, voters approved a half-cent sales tax for the library's construction but the land was needed.

"When we started planning this library, we were sitting on each other laps trying to run a library and library system out of that old building," said Eva White, the former library director.

White also said that along with five other issues that were on the ballot in 2005 the half-cent sales tax was the only issue approved by the voters. The land was donated before the election and white attribute that action to helping them receive support. 

Donna Baker, former chair of the library board, shared the story of how she approached Ed Yeager to convince him to donate the land.

"First of all I had to make the phone call," said Baker. "Ed knows that I want something."

Baker said she met Ed Yeager at his hardware store in Van Buren and had a discussion in his office. She explained how the library was becoming too small, and they were planning on constructing a new building and needed somewhere to put it. 

"He never showed too much shock," said Baker. "I would have been shocked. I was asking him for a prime piece of property."

Before Yeager could make a decision he told Baker he needed to talk to his wife first. Baker said she felt very hopeful and two days later she received a call telling her that they were going to donate the land. 

Shirley Yeager was present at the dedication as the guest of honor and said a few words regarding the library and their donation. 

"It's been said that the library is an arena of possibility," said Shirley Yeager. "Opening both a window in the soul and a door into the world. Libraries are essential for discovering new worlds, for research, and for relaxing. It is a privilege to be able to assist and grow with something that is so important to our community."

Yeager said she and Ed spoke to each other and agreed they would be honored to be involved in the legacy of the library.

"It's an honor to be here and be such an important part of our city for the young and for the old," Shirley Yeager said.

Ed Yeager's mother, Frances, had the children's reading room dedicated to her in 2011. Francis volunteered at City Heights Elementary where she read to children.

Library Director George Fowler revealed a painting that was commissioned by local artist Myrna Roberts. The painting is a portrait of Ed and Shirley and will hang in the meeting room. 

Library Director George Fowler revealed a painting of Ed and Shirley Yeager that will hang in the meeting room.