Grande Prairie Public Library honours anonymous benefactor
'No one knew he was donating considerable funds to the library every year'
Willie Janssen didn't stand out when he used to visit the Grande Prairie Public Library.
"He was just a regular library user that most people didn't really even remember terribly well because he wanted to remain so strictly quiet and private," said Maureen Curry, the libraries director.
"No one knew he was donating considerable funds to the library every year."
But now, five-and-a-half years after his death, everyone who walks through the libraries doors will know who he was.
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It was discovered at the time of his death in 2010, that Janssen donated over $200,000 to his local library anonymously.
When he died, he left them a bequest that totals to almost $1 million. The library is now honouring his donations and memory with the Willie Janssen Discovery Room.
"Through the years, these funds helped grow a variety of collections which were developed and updated," said former library director Laurie Harrison, in a press release.
"These included medical, travel, science fiction series, international fiction, and specialty children's collections.
"Willie had a wide range of interests yet was an unassuming man who specified that this donation be anonymous every year."
Janssen made the majority of his money off ranching. According to an obituary, Janssen was born in Germany in 1925 before came to Canada with his family five years later.
In 1937 the Janssens arrived, via Northern Alberta Railways, in the province they would call home.
Janssen was a self-educated man and was a very successful rancher in the Peace River area, the obit said. In 1980, he received the Spirit River Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award.
"The Discovery Room is named for him," said Curry. "We did feel that it was a perfect venue to showcase his wishes that everyone have the opportunity to learn, discover, be creative.
"Especially for young people, he had a particular fondness for young people."
The room was designed with technology in mind. It features a state-of-the-art sound system and projector, is internet accessible, and features whiteboard and bulletin board walls for collaboration.
This room is made to facilitate learning, Curry said.
Janssen, while unassuming in life, has left a lasting legacy with the library, one that Curry says the library is ever thankful for.
"This coming from such a private man who wished to remain anonymous for so many years that once he was gone you almost wish you had the opportunity to thank him in person.
"We're very grateful."