The Soldier Who Inspired the Oceanic Free Library

September 14, 2017
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By Elizabeth Wulfhorst |

RUMSON – The Oceanic Free Library has a long and storied history with the Meeker family. Eugene Meeker and his wife donated the original library building to the town as a memorial gift to their son, William who died in World War I.

And now, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of William’s death, the library is publishing 150 copies of “His Book,” a collection of letters William wrote to his parents. These limited edition, numbered copies will be sold for $100 as a fundraiser for the library which is one of the state’s only privately funded public libraries.

Only two of the 150 copies of the original hard-bound book, published privately by the Meekers in 1917, survive in the library.

According to Carolyn Miller, president of the Oceanic Free Library Board, the letters are “touching and well-written.”

A full-length painting of William in his military uniform is displayed at the entrance to the library. William, who graduated Harvard University in 1917, “was a serious, determined, and intensely patriotic young man,” according to the introduction to “His Book,” written by Edwin L. Pomphrey Jr., a library board member and longtime Rumson resident. He was killed in an aviation training accident on Sept. 11, 1917 in Pau, France.

The forward for the new printing was also written by Pomphrey and states, in part, “This book will extend the Meeker family’s effort to honor their son. ‘His Book’ is both a testament to the sacrifice they endured and a very generous gift to the residents of Rumson.”

Wholly independent, the library is supported by the generous donations of its patrons and the community, the town of Rumson and the annual Community Appeal. Private donations are the main source of funding for the library. If all copies of “His Book” are sold, the new printing, the cost of which has been covered by the Pomphrey family, should generate $15,000 for the library.

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“The history of the library is so rooted in Rumson,” said Miller. “I’m excited about the book because it will let people know why we are here.”

The Oceanic Free Library is located at 109 Avenue of Two Rivers, Rumson.

This article was first published in the Sept. 7-14, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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