For generations of Sequimites, the little yellow building at 415 N. Sequim Ave. was not only a source of civic pride, but also a symbol of how their community had rallied to honor one of its own.
In November 1936, a sizable crowd lined the sidewalks at the corner of North Sequim Avenue and West Fir Street to dedicate the new Clyde Rhodefer Memorial Library. Spearheaded by the American Legion Auxiliary and constructed by the Works Progress Administration on land donated by the Progressive Club of Sequim, the building was named after Clallam County’s first casualty of World War I.
“I have a few memories of the library — all the wonderful books our family could check out and a great playfield behind it,” said Mary Dryke Pogue, who grew up across the street from the library in the 1930s and 1940s. “I used to get in trouble for riding my bike across Sequim Avenue to it, even though there was only one car every four hours or so.”
Judy Reandeau Stipe recalled with amusement how during the 1950s and 1960s, librarian Frances Shade kept a motherly if not stern watch over the reading selections of young patrons, steering them away from anything she deemed too racy.
“If any girl brought a copy of ‘Tropic of Cancer’ to her desk for checkout, she would put the book aside and take us over to ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” Stipe said. “We all did what was suggested by the librarian because of the big, black rotary dial phone that sat on her desk with the tiny Sequim phone book under it with the phone numbers of our parents clearly listed.”
While the largest room housed books and a fireplace, the building also had a kitchen and parlor-like room furnished with a piano. Wilma Rhodefer Johnson, a niece of the library’s namesake, recalled going there every week for nearly a decade to take piano lessons from Minnie Lotzgesell.
Honoring Sequim’s fallen
U.S. Army Sgt. Clyde A. Rhodefer, 28, was serving with the 346th Field Artillery in France when, according to family records, he died of bronchial pneumonia after volunteering for a special detail to test gas masks on the front. Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the Sequim man died on Sept. 23, 1918, one year after having enlisted at Port Williams.
“It always made me feel good to go in the library, knowing it was built in honor of my uncle,” said Johnson, noting the building was a source of immense family pride.
After nearly 50 years, during which time the library joined the county library system, increasing public demand and inadequate room to grow hastened its closure upon the new Sequim Library’s opening in 1983.
While the name Clyde Rhodefer lives on locally through the Clyde Rhodefer VFW Post 1024 in Port Angeles, memories are largely all that remain linking it to the little yellow building that now houses a chiropractic and wellness clinic.
“It’s unfortunate when longstanding place names vanish because our collective memory and understanding of their significance tends to fade, too,” Museum & Arts Center Executive Director DJ Bassett said. “We lose a piece of shared community history when that happens.”