Margaret Cheeseman, whose love of books has been part of the fabric of her life, enjoys a book recently in her room at Persimmon Ridge, Portland. (The Commercial Review/Virginia Cline)
Margaret Cheeseman, whose love of books has been part of the fabric of her life, enjoys a book recently in her room at Persimmon Ridge, Portland. (The Commercial Review/Virginia Cline)
Her passion for reading began as a child when she discovered her father's "Alley Oop" and "Tarzan" books and led her to a career as a librarian and later the owner of 60,000 books.

Margaret Cheeseman, 78, a resident of Persimmon Ridge Rehabilitation Centre in Portland, reads "As much as I can." she said recently in her room at the facility. She moved to Persimmon Ridge, upon her doctor's recommendation, because of a heart condition.

Margaret enjoys rereading books by Noel Streatfeild - an English author who is famous for "the Shoe books," which include "Ballet Shoes" and "Tennis Shoes" and the Mrs. Pollifax books by Dorothy Gilman. She also has a great collection of Charlie Brown cartoon books and had all of the "Tarzan" books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the "Alley Oop" books at one time.

A 1949 graduate of Portland High School, Margaret attended Northwestern University in Illinois - a school she chose because of her father's influence. She received her bachelor's degree in 1953, majoring in English, English composition and French.

Margaret recalls being chosen to study with Bergen Evans, who published "The Natural History of Nonsense" in 1946 and "The Spoor of Spooks and Other Nonsense" in 1954, at Northwestern. He picked his students and interviewed each one.

"That was quite a star in my crown," she fondly remembers.

Evans thought it was funny that Margaret was raised on a farm, but still pursued higher education.

She later earned her master's degree in library science from the University of Chicago and completed her hours for a doctorate from the University of Michigan, but didn't receive the degree.

"I wanted to run a library, I didn't want to theorize about them," Margaret said on why she didn't complete the doctorate degree.

Her professional career has always included books.

Margaret was a school librarian at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek, Mich. She also worked as a library consultant in Michigan and for the Library Services Division for the state of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, which involved traveling across the state creating libraries in prisons and for the blind and physically handicapped.

When visiting prisons, she didn't want to know what crimes inmates had committed because she didn't want to treat them differently. But she said that most of them told her anyway.

Margaret recalls the time a man was released from prison and looked her up in the phone book and visited her home, and another time when a prisoner who had isolated himself on the balcony of the prison and later became a helper in the library.

One prison had a library, but it was filled with nothing but children's books.

"It was an interesting few years of my life," Margaret remembers. "And it was fun. I enjoyed it. I met a lot of nice people."

Margaret also did some theatre work, acting and working as a stage manager, while living in Michigan and Pennsylvania. She remembers doing the play "The Women" by Clare Boothe Luce.

"I had difficulty memorizing. That can be a real handicap," Margaret joked.

Margaret eventually returned to Portland when her parents began to have trouble getting around and her father needed to stop driving. Her mother had never learned to drive.

She has two sisters and four brothers, who helped all they could, but they were busy with spouses and young children at home. Margaret had remained single because "I was always too busy," she recalled. So she returned to her parents' home and began working at the family business.

She ran the cash register and helped with the books at Cheeseman's, a local store that sold plumbing supplies and items for farmers.

"It was a very miscellaneous collection at Cheeseman's," Margaret remembers. "It was not a fancy shop at all."

Cheeseman's was in a big shed with sheet metal sides located behind the Portland Post Office.

"It was an eyesore," she recalls of the building that was ½ block long and 1/3 block wide, "but it was our eyesore.

"It wasn't a big business, but it worked out pretty well. And I made enough to pay my bills."

Later Margaret opened The Corner Shop, a book store that bore the name because it was located in a corner of Cheeseman's.

She had a lot of books and bought a lot of books. Also people would drop off books that they didn't want because they didn't want to throw them away or burn them. Margaret kept the good ones.

Since she had worked as a librarian, she kept the books organized. Her dad and brothers helped install shelves, which she then painted all different colors, that housed her books that eventually led to a collection of 60,000.

"It was a very cooperative operation," Margaret noted of the help she received from family members in The Corner Shop.

After Margaret's dad died, her brother Chester ran the store until its closing. When she closed The Corner Shop, Margaret sold some of her books to Hyde Brothers in Fort Wayne.

But she kept a lot of them for herself.

"I'm a pack rat I guess," she admitted. "Books are very interesting and fun to read.

"I just like reading."