It was an extraordinary day on Sept. 2, 2017.
It was the day that Mike Hanks, who had been the director at the Huxley Public Library, died.
What was so extraordinary about that day was happening with Melissa Haynes.
Melissa is an employee at the library. She has been employed at the Huxley Library since 2005. She helps with the children who visit the library, she re-shelves books, does general cleanup with the toys and the tables and says that she could not imagine not working with the children.
“Working with Cathy (Van Maanen) and the children makes my life better,” explained Melissa. “I just can’t imagine not working with them. I have come to be close with so many of the children and their parents; they all have such alive personalities.”
Melissa loves to write poetry. It’s something that comes easy for her.
On the morning that she learned of Mike’s death, she took her writing pad and went outside her home and sat for a few minutes. The first thing she said that she saw was an orb weaver, who had made a web and there was a leaf caught in its web.
“I sat down on with my pad of paper on my porch, and I noticed the orb weaver had been at work and that a leaf was indeed caught in the web,” explained Melissa. “Then I saw a bee and I had this feeling that Mike (Hanks) was beside me. I went to my neighbor’s and the bee followed me, and I knew, you know how you just know things, that it was Mike telling me that it was going to be OK, that he was there with me and that life will go on.”
That was the inspiration for her poem she wrote about Mike: “To be extraordinary, to be easy to talk to, to be earnest…to be Mike.”
Melissa said Mike was a very quiet person.
“You could talk to him and he would listen,” she said. “He always made whomever he was talking to feel special.”
Kaitlyn Romsey was another former employee who was impacted by Mike Hanks’ life. She is an accomplished artist who, over the years, has produced some art pieces in the library.
She had this to say about the painting she designed that is now hanging in the library as a memorial to Mike Hanks:
“I worked for Mike as a library assistant at the Huxley Library for eight years, so it was my honor to be asked to create an artistic memorial in his memory that is now on display in the library,” she tells. “Mike was a very kind person whose humor made the workplace fun. When I was first approached about creating an artistic memorial for Mike, I asked if the library had ideas on what they would like for the image. I was told that Melissa Haynes wrote a poem in Mike’s memory the day she learned of his passing. A few lines of the poem were very moving and were felt to describe Mike very well. The significance of a honey bee was also mentioned in the poem, so I thought it would be fun to play with the “be” working from the lines of Melissa’s poem. So instead of “Be extraordinary,” I used “Bee extraordinary” and the play on the honey bee. I created an image with a colorful wildflower and a honey bee to go with the chosen lines from Mel’s poem.”
Kaitlyn said that she felt that a single detailed and colorful wildflower with the bee and the poem would complement one another and allow the viewer to appreciate the meaning of the memorial. She added that the wildflower species she used is also special because it is one of her favorite flowers.
Kaitlyn owns and sells her art at her store in Story City, Romsey Art and Gifts, where she also teaches art classes. She said that she enjoys creating realistic depictions of Iowa subjects, such as animals, farms and landscapes, using pencil, pen and ink.
Melissa said that she felt proud that her poem was being used as a memorial subject.
“I felt proud to see Kaitlyn use my poem,” she commented. “I have always admitted Kaitlyn’s art work and have always looked up to her. The painting is the best way to express our gratitude for having had a wonderful boss and I am just so glad to be part of the memorial.”
The painting was dedicated recently with family members, library board members and, of course, Melissa and Kaitlyn present. It hangs on the wall near the entrance of the library, so that all those who enter and leave can enjoy its beauty.