A former head of the children’s department at the Livingston Public Library for nearly 30 years passed away this week.
Grace Ho Chen passed away suddenly on Monday at Green Hill Retirement Community in West Orange. She was 77 years old.
Chen retired in 2004 as head of the youth services department at the local library after nearly three decades. While it has been almost a 10 since she stepped down, children’s librarian Gina Vaccaro said that Chen has left an indelible mark on the library and community.
“She’s been retired … and people still ask for her,” said Vaccaro, who worked with Chen for about three years. “She definitely made an impact not only on those that worked with her but all that came in contact with her. The entire community adored her.”
During her long tenure, Chen introduced various programs still used at the library, such as the Read to Me Club and Summer Reading Club.
To recognize Chen for her commitment and service to the community, the library dedicated a space in her name in the new library in 2007. The Grace Chen Children's Terrace is an open space in the library where visitors can read and relax.
“She was such a big part of the Livingston library community and the community in general for many years,” said Livingston Library Director Judith Kron.
Chen was born in China, which she fled with her family to Taiwan as the Communists took over the country. She later received a bachelor's degree from Soochow University in Taiwan, then a master's degree in library science from Syracuse University.
Chen married her husband, King, who later became a professor of political science at Rutgers, in 1963. The two eventually settled in Livingston in 1976 where Chen remained until last year.
Livingston library specialist Latha Nair, who was has been at the library since 2001, said she remembers that Chen’s positive attitude and cheerfulness was infectious.
“She was the most upbeat person I knew,” said Nair. “What all of us remember is that she was just an extremely positive and happy person and such an inspiration. She never had a bad day and she always had something good to say about everything.”
A memorial service will be held at the library on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The service will be an opportunity for the community to celebrate her life and make any remarks. Chen’s sons, Don and David, will also be in attendance.
“She loved the library,” said Don Chen. “She was warmly embraced by the Livingston community and she loved her time there.”
Chen’s sons are asking that donations be made to the Livingston Public Library in her memory.