WESTCHASE — The former Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library in Northwest Hillsborough County has officially been renamed "Maureen B. Gauzza Library.''
It's a salute to the focused and persuasive woman who made it her tireless cause to get the library approved, built and expanded.
Gauzza died on July 3 after a lengthy illness. She was 75. But her legacy lives on through the library, which has become a Westchase community cornerstone.
"The whole time we were working on the project, I kept saying, 'Maureen, this library needs to be named after you,'" said Gauzza's longtime friend, Rama Patterson, who teamed with her on a grassroots committee to drum up support. "She would laugh and say, 'Oh no, it's going to be the Upper Tampa Bay Library.'
"The truth is, we probably wouldn't have a library in this area had it not been for Maureen. She had the thought long before anyone else. She had the drive to keep on going until it actually happened. It's very fitting that it's now named for her. She was the driving force behind it.''
Following Gauzza's death, the wheels were set in motion to formally recognize her contributions.
At the July 19 Board of County Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Ken Hagan made the motion that the Hillsborough County Library Board consider the renaming of the library for Gauzza.
On July 27, the Library Board, a citizen's advocacy group, unanimously recommended the name change.
Hagan, whose first motion ever made was to fund and construct the original library, spoke at the Aug. 2 BOCC meeting. He read testimonial letters from Sol Fleischman, the library's architect, and Patterson. Hagan's final motion to rename the library was approved unanimously.
Two days later, it was shown as "The Maureen B. Gauzza Public Library'' on Hillsborough County's government Web sites. The library's revised signage was immediately put out for bid and it's expected to be completed this fall.
"Maureen was relentless,'' Hagan said. "She was a real bulldog. She truly cared about her community and what the library could provide.''
Hagan found out about Gauzza early on.
When Hagan first ran for county commissioner, he was going door-to-door with his father throughout Westchase. He found himself being welcomed into the Gauzza home and a relationship had begun.
Gauzza, who moved to Westchase in 1998, already had decided her new area needed a library. She was willing to marshal the volunteer forces and found a willing political ally in Hagan.
Largely through Gauzza's strategic, organizational and persuasive efforts, she led a group that helped establish the Upper Tampa Bay Regional Library, which was dedicated in 2005, then expanded to 26,000 square feet nine years later.
What has the library meant?
It's where children could discover a love of reading. It's a place to learn new skills. It's a gathering facility for lectures, classes and study.
"It's everything to so many people,'' Patterson said. "It has been a blessing, over and over again. My husband and I volunteered for early voting. We would take our lunch and eat in the gazebo. I would always think, 'This was Maureen's dream and I'm enjoying it now.'
"She had so much vision for what she wanted the library to be. Everything from the design of it, the gazebo, the retail shop … it was just amazing to me. Her vision couldn't be stopped.''
Gauzza's husband, Charlie, said she would be particularly pleased with the revised name.
"It's known as a 'public library' and given the choice, that's how Maureen would want it,'' Charlie Gauzza said. "When this endeavor began, a few folks wanted to call it the Westchase Public Library. Maureen said, 'No, no, no … I don't want to name it that.' She wanted it to be very inclusive and very clear that it was an asset for all our communities.
"She wanted it to be used by Westchase, Fawn Ridge, Highland Park, Westwood Lakes, Waterchase, The Eagles, Twin Branch Acres … everyone in our area. That is what has happened. It is a great asset for Westchase and all of our communities.''
Charlie Gauzza said the family — daughter Sharon Gauzza Potts of Westchase, daughter Christine Harvey, son-in-law John Harvey of Highland Park, Texas, along with their six grandchildren, Justin, Jared, Julia, Christopher, Savannah and Alexandria — was appreciative of the library's name change.
"We have known all along how dedicated Maureen was to this cause,'' Charlie Gauzza said. "I think everyone in our family is deeply touched by this gesture of renaming the library in her honor. Her fingerprints can be found on pretty much everything in the library. Now that legacy will live forever."
Contact Joey Johnston at [email protected]