Longtime Howell library staffer dies at 81

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Barb Illinik

Barb Illinik, longtime Howell resident and staffer at the Howell Carnegie District Library, died Friday, Feb. 25, at the age of 81.

Barb, who lived in my downtown Howell neighborhood, was a face familiar to many for lots of reasons: She was active in the community, her family owned Cohoctah Tree Works and she sometimes worked polling places, but Barb is probably best known for her working at the library with a career that spanned over 30 years.

She was a favorite of patrons, and knowing Barb, I’ll bet she knew the names of most of the people who passed through the library’s doors.

“No one will forget that smile, her patience, compassion, wit and friendship,” said Joyce Fisher, who works in the Howell Archives, which are housed at the library.

I’ve known Barb for years, and anyone who had the privilege of making her acquaintance will attest to her being one of the most genuinely warm, friendly and thoughtful people to walk this earth.

I met Barb through my work at the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. Barb was one of my biggest fans. She’s also likely the only person in the community outside of my mother who’s read every single word I’ve ever written. She loved kids and was a generous contributor to the paper’s Empty Stocking Fund, which I administered.

When my son was born, I got a lovely card and gift from Barb. When the condolences rolled in after I got laid off from the paper, I received a call from her, followed up by a card a few months later. It touched me deeply that she thought to send a card, which came long after the public goodbyes had trickled to a halt. She’d call occasionally as her health kept her home more, just to check in and chat about stuff going on in the community. She always asked for an update on my son, about whom she loved to read.

To say that Barb was one of the loveliest, most thoughtful people around would be an understatement.

I am sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with Barb in a while. I am so, so sorry to hear of her passing, but I am glad to be one of the lucky people whose lives are richer for having known her.

Her smile, her thoughtfulness, her attitude, her sense of community and her wonderful spirit will be missed.

I’ve no doubt there’s a library in heaven, and I have a hunch I know where Barb is trying out her new wings.

The memorial service for Barb Illinik begins at noon Saturday, March 5, at MacDonald’s Funeral Home, 315 N. Michigan Ave. in downtown Howell, just north of Grand River Avenue. A luncheon follows at the American Legion Devereaux Post at M-59 and Grand River Ave. in Howell Township. Donations are suggested to the American Lung Association.


About Maria Stuart 211 Articles

Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse. You can check out her website by clicking here.