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Former Librarian, 'Heart of SPHS,' Dies

Long time South Pasadena resident, Mary Ida Phair, 92, was the librarian at South Pasadena High School for whom the media center was named.

Mary Ida Phair, a librarian at South Pasadena High School who was as interested in research as she was her students, died at the age of 92 following complications from pneumonia. 

Phair passed away Nov. 9, in her Irvine home, surrounded by her family, according to her obituary posted on legacy.com.

Principal Janet Anderson called Phair, who was also a graduate of the high school, "the heart of SPHS.'' Anderson on Thursday described the Texas native as a "caring, fun, humble and encouraging'' person. 

"The faculty loved her, as did the students. She was a club advisor. In my mind, she was sort of the den mother on campus.  Her family was active in SP athletics, in the high school and in Little League.  When I was a student here, she "inherited" a foreign exchange student from Australia who needed a change of placement. I think ending up with the Phairs was an extra bonus for her.

"The library/media center was named after Mary Ida for all of her contributions. When we remodeled, there was no plan to put signage on the library, but we fought for it, since she had truly "earned" it. One day, after construction was complete, we hosted all of the retired and staff members we could find and gave them a tour and a luncheon. We saved the front of the school for last.

"By that time, Mary Ida was in a wheelchair, and her son, Rob, brought her up from Dana Point for the day.  After the luncheon, we brought the group and Mary Ida out through the library and we unveiled the "Mary Ida Phair Library" sign on the building. The entire student body was present to applaud her, and it was a wonderful moment for all,'' Anderson said.

With a master's degree in library science from the University of Southern California, Phair was hired at South Pasadena High School in 1961. According to the obituary, Phair was most proud of her organizing a Grand Reunion in 1982, of 75 years of SPHS graduates. Some 7,000 people came from all over the world and walked in a parade through the city. 

"Mary Ida was a true friend to all. She was not the stereotypical librarian of the day; she was very interested in research.  Most of all, she was interested in the kids. She was an informal counselor to them for generations.  She knew them and took care of them. She knew students' likes and dislikes,'' Anderson said.

She added that Phair participated in a prestigious service group called Bengals, when she was a student at SPHS. The school still has her Bengal sweater, along with other memorabilia that Phair left for the school's archives.

The obituary states that Phair was preceded in death by her son Randy in 1995 and Bob in 1998. She is survived by her son Rob; daughter-in-law, Randa; three grandchildren, Rory, Luke and Eden; Tim (Rory's husband); and four great-grandchildren, Will, Luke, Jack, and Kate.

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