Fabulous Finds & Stories

Volunteer Spotlight: Beth Svee

  • Caroline’s volunteer since 2011.
  • Also volunteers at Porter Memorial Library
  • Loves going out to eat (especially for breakfast and to Shadowbrook)
  • Enjoys volunteering at Caroline’s because she loves helping customers find just the right thing. She offered that she has learned “how to be more tactful” in her role as a volunteer!
  • Greatest pleasures are traveling and reading
  • Favorite books are by Kristin Hannah (Orphan Train and Nightengale) and Jacqueline Winspear
  • She feels her greatest attribute is how much she truly cares about other people and her absolute honesty- “to a fault!”

Beth is one of the original, day-one, Caroline’s volunteers along with Christy and Cheri. The three of them volunteered together at St. John’s Helpful Shop in 2010 before Caroline’s had even begun.

Beth is one of 4 kids and was raised in Richmond, Virginia. Her account of her childhood was as a very rigorous pupil and strong-minded young person. She was an “A” student right up until college where she received an “F” on her first paper. The professor told her, “You write like you talk- in run-on sentences!”

She attended The College of William and Mary where she earned a degree in English. She continued studies at the University of North Carolina where she graduated with a master’s degree in Library Science.

Following grad school she was offered a job in Karlsruhe, Germany running two armed forces libraries. She remembers the learning curve at this first job as TREMENDOUS! In addition to fundamentally learning how to run not one, but two libraries, she had to call for help to operate a German vacuum cleaner and unlock the sleeves on the plastic covers of the magazine holders. Who knew there was a specific key for the task! She lived in Germany for two years before returning to the US.

In addition to Germany she has lived in San Francisco, Falls Church, Virgina, and Pacifica.

Beth met her husband, Dick, when a mutual friend of theirs suggested he ask her out sometime. He stood up immediately after hearing her description, walked to the library where Beth was working (in a scandalously short mini-skirt) and asked her out on a date. She had to turn him down because she was busy but quickly salvaged his dignity by offering him the next night, to which he happily agreed. They dated for five years and then married when Beth was 36. They have happily shared over 51 years together.

She learned piano as a young adult and even gave lessons for a time. She had one professional gig playing at her aunt’s wedding. Her very brief musical career ended abruptly when she played the wedding march song before any of the wedding party were even in the chapel! She laments that if she had a better ear she could possibly play more naturally and maybe learn a foreign language.

In 1955, Beth was asked to be the 10th traveler on a trip to Europe with her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a cousin. Though only completing the 7th grade, her granddad felt travel was vital to learning, even more than an education. He bought Ford and Chevy station wagons and tickets for all ten family travelers with passage on the QE II across the Atlantic. They traveled for three months in those two cars, seeing all of Europe except Spain. Beth was 13 years old and the only child on the trip. She remembers learning about geography and history from her two uncles, both of whom were teachers. She recalled the food shortages in Germany following WW II, and the travel restrictions imposed as consequences. They had no reservations but wandered, explored, and enjoyed great months of world travel together.

That trip ignited a love of travel in Beth and a deep curiosity about the world and its people. This story easily explains why she is so good at her post in our little store.

Beth has taken great care of our books and media in the shop for years. If you need a suggestion or want to discuss a good read, or share stories about places you’ve been, Beth is an eager, spirited wealth of information and a kind and friendly listener.

Thank you for your service, Beth!!!

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