Mary Morris Youmans of Cullowhee, 94, passed to the next world on February 6, 2024. The youngest of nine, Mary was born on March 17, 1929, the surprise “miracle baby” born to William Leicester Morris and Lila Eugenia Arnold Morris of Collins, Georgia. She attended Auburn and Georgia Southern and completed a master’s degree in Library Science at Emory University. She worked as a librarian at a school in Atlanta, at The State Library of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, and at Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library, where she was Head of Serials.
Mary Youmans came to Hunter Library in 1967 and retired December of 1994. During that time Western’s students and faculty benefited from Youmans’ dedication to the support of their research interests.
Mary was responsible for the library’s collection of magazines, newspapers, academic journals, and databases, managing subscriptions that were a major part of the library’s budget. She was a leader in taking advantage of the quickly changing opportunities computer technology offered libraries. At the time of her arrival, records of subscriptions were kept in hand-written files, but by mid-1979, Youmans had worked with computer science faculty and the university’s Computer Center to automate the records of holdings. Besides providing up-to-date information to researchers on WCU’s campus, the computerized records were distributed to other academic libraries, benefiting scholars at institutions around the country.
Youmans also took special care to preserve the library’s print collection of regional newspapers. Since newsprint deteriorates quickly, the microfilming of local newspapers “was an especially notable project to save the region’s heritage. . . The project helped rescue decades of history from loss” —George Frizzell. In the years since Youmans’ retirement, this project has served as a stepping stone for digital sharing of local historical resources with the world.
A notable needlewoman throughout life, Mary became a weaver in later years. A birder and raiser of native mountain plants, she also loved cats and flower-hunting hikes in the mountains. She attended and gardened for Cullowhee Baptist Church.
Mary was predeceased by her parents and all eight of her siblings and their spouses, as well as by her firstborn child, Rebecca Faye Youmans, and her husband, Professor Hubert L. Youmans, who taught analytical chemistry at WCU. She is survived by daughter Marly Youmans Miller of Cooperstown, New York, her son-in-law, Michael T. Miller, M.D., and three grandchildren, Benjamin Francis Miller, Rebecca Beatrice Miller (of Montreal, CA), and Nathaniel James Miller.
Services in North and South Carolina will be conducted by Jeffrey and Tonya Vickery of Cullowhee Baptist Church. Visitation (12:00 to 1:00 p.m.) and funeral (1:00 p.m.) will take place on Wednesday, February 14th at Appalachian Funeral Services in Sylva. Burial will take place at 1:00 p.m. on the following day at Bethany Cemetery in Aiken, South Carolina.
In lieu of flowers, and remembering Mary’s love for mountain birds and plants, the family requests donations be made to the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, conservers of Nodding Trillium Garden and Pittilo Family Preserve in Cullowhee.
Thank you to former WCU librarians Hiddy Morgan and Becky Kornegay for the historical account of Mary’s work at Western Carolina University.