Arnold, Veller work side by side at St. Mary Basilica library

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2001

For 10 years, Abbie Arnold and Dr. Margaret Veller have worked together at the Monsignor Fullam Parish Library at St. Mary Basilica. For Veller, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist, the project has been like delivering another baby especially when the library was new.

&uot;I feel like it is (my baby),&uot; Veller said. &uot;I’ve had lots of help and I treasure it.&uot;

In appreciation of their volunteer efforts, The Democrat featured Arnold and Veller last month as Unsung Heroes in its 2001 Profile edition.

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Neither of the women said she expected being chosen as an Unsung Hero.

&uot;I could think of all the people who do more than I do,&uot; Arnold said.

Veller and Arnold both say they get so much joy out of volunteering they do not feel the award was necessary.

&uot;I was delighted and wonderfully surprised,&uot; Veller said about the honor.

Veller began working to establish the library in the early 1990s, when the Rev. David O’Connor, a former priest at St. Mary Basilica, decided he wanted Loyola University in New Orleans to offer graduate theology classes in Natchez.

For the school to offer the classes, St. Mary Basilica needed to have a library, Veller said.

And the job was hard going at first, Veller said. &uot;We worked real hard at it – usually eight hours a day, five days a week for nearly a year,&uot; she said.

Since its humble beginning, the library has grown from about 100 books to about 3,000, but it still maintains the atmosphere of a small library.

The library is not computerized, so volunteers still make use of a card catalog in categorizing books.

&uot;We’re sort of like a little 1950s library,&uot; Veller said

Arnold volunteers at the library once a week often helping to type new cards for the card catalog.

&uot;(I) knew they needed some help so I volunteered,&uot; Arnold said when asked why she began working at the library.

Arnold also regularly visits nursing home residents and served as president of the Ladies of Charity – a Catholic charitable organization – for about seven years.

During that time, Arnold worked at the Ladies of Charity thrift store and encouraged people to adopt one person at a nursing home to spend time with and visit on holidays.

Having a society with so many working mothers makes the job difficult, Arnold said.

&uot;It never was a successful program, but it’s still much needed,&uot; Arnold said.

Arnold is the widow of the late James Arnold and the mother of six children.

Arnold enjoys her volunteer work, but does not consider it the biggest accomplish of her life.

&uot;That’s not as important as being a mother and wife,&uot; she said.