Kay Bahrami — who helped spark a love for books and reading in the hearts of countless La Cañada Elementary School students throughout more than three decades as school librarian — died Saturday following a brief illness. She was 74.
Principal Emily Blaney said she was notified earlier that week by Bahrami’s family members the beloved school employee had suffered a heart attack. Those who knew her sent letters of well wishes and encouragement while she was in the hospital.
On Sunday, when campus staff and faculty learned Bahrami had passed, they reached out to school PTA members and parents, several of whom had served as library volunteers and vowed to keep the librarian’s post occupied through a substitute pool until arrangements for a replacement could be made.
“That’s what they’re doing right now,” Blaney said. “They’re pulling books for kids, and they’re going to keep it going.”
When students arrived on campus Monday, school counselor Nancy DeBoer had bottled water and tissues at the ready for anyone who wanted to talk or share memories of the librarian. Hundreds wrote memorial tributes on several long pieces of butcher paper laid out on table tops.
There, children recalled Bahrami’s love of literature, of cats and of reading to kids. “Best librarian ever. Legends never die,” one student wrote in purple marker. “You were the best librarian I ever had,” read another, while a third proclaimed, “Reading is my superpower!”
DeBoer recalled the librarian’s enthusiasm for connecting students and staff members with titles tailored to their interests and said practically everyone on campus has at least one book recommended to them by Bahrami.
“She was all about the books,” DeBoer said with a smile.
La Cañada Elementary first-grade teacher Jan Rappleye — who came to the campus in 1988, just one year after Bahrami started on as librarian, and developed a friendship with her over the years — remembered her as a bright, multitalented person who never sought out the limelight and honored each book as something special.
“I’m sure she knew every title and author in the library,” said Rappleye. “That is Kay’s library.”
The school library will undergo a renovation later in the school year, thanks to a donation from the school’s Parent Teachers Assn., according to Blaney. Rappleye said there’s already been some talk about memorializing Bahrami upon its reopening.
“We’ve all agreed we think it should be [named] the Kay Bahrami Memorial Library,” she said.
Bahrami was preceded in death by husband Ted and is survived by son Adam, daughter Lynne and sons Ben and Justin, along with grandsons Ian, 6, and 3-year-old Wilder.