Once a Librarian, Always a Librarian—Remembering Frank De La Cruz

By Mary Margaret Mercado, Sam Lena-South Tucson Library

Even though Frank retired in 2008, you couldn’t take the library out of him. When he was still working, a child came up to him, shamefully holding out a book he was returning late. He didn’t have money to pay the fine. Frank’s only question was, “Yes it’s late, but did you read it?” At the child’s enthusiastic nod, Frank cleared the fine. When he passed away on Friday, November 13th, we lost a truly wonderful man and a truly wonderful librarian.

Frank De La Cruz spearheaded changes for a better quality of life for thousands across Tucson and Pima County. He was an unceasing advocate for justice and fairness. In his quiet and unassuming way, things somehow happened.

The El Rio Library exists because Frank believed a neighborhood center was incomplete without a place where people and books could come together. He seldom spoke, but he always listened. He had enough to say to fill three books—and did. From sitting on the board for Borderlands Theater to being an essential member of the Pima County Public Library team for 35 years, Frank left a mark on every project, political issue, or personal crusade he adopted.

If we had to pick an emotion that embodied how he lived it would be PASSION. KIND would be the innocuous-sounding noun to describe the sincere and respectful way he treated everyone. The adjective assigned to Frank would be VORACIOUS. He was a voracious learner, a voracious reader, and a voracious lover of life. Frank was a verb. He wrote, he marched, he organized, and he GAVE—generous hugs, gentle smiles, unstinting support, and, yes, jackets, shoes, and sweaters where needed.

Frank was woven into the fabric that is Tucson. Every person who came in contact with him will have a Frank-shaped hole tucked into the routines of their lives: empanadas at Le Cave’s, lunch at El Minuto, a storytime at the El Rio Library…

Oh Frank, how you’ll be missed.