Marie Bisconti loves holding a book and losing herself in a world of words. That passion for books has kept her coming back to the Oldsmar Public Library, where she has volunteered more than 5,400 hours over the past 27 years. Even at age 92, she still arrives every Wednesday to spend a few hours checking in returned books and DVDs. "I enjoy it or else I wouldn't be coming back," said Bisconti, who has been described as "feisty" and hardworking by library staffers. For her efforts, Bisconti received the Friends of the Library Volunteer of the Year award in 1990, 2006 and again this year.
For as long as she can remember, reading has been her hobby. Some of her favorite books were written by American authors Karen Kingsbury, David Baldacci and Stuart Woods.
Bisconti never used a Nook or Kindle, devices used to read books electronically.
"I don't have a Kindle. I just have my two eyes," she said. "I read like a normal person."
Born and raised in New York, Bisconti was one of 12 children. Only she and a younger brother, 82, are left.
She also has a daughter, Joanne Frein, who lives in Port St. Lucie.
Bisconti's husband, John, died at age 52 while the couple was living in New York. He was working at John F. Kennedy International Airport and had applied for a higher-paying job, but the job went to a younger person.
Bisconti recalls her husband returning home the day he received the bad news. Not feeling well, he went to bed and suffered a stroke in his sleep.
"He never woke up," she said.
Bisconti had always been strong. She was a working woman, selling frozen food in New York. She grieved the passing of her husband but forced herself to keep going.
"I used to work in the neighborhood, so I would walk to work and cry on my way there," she said. "I say it's better than staying home. I had to keep working."
Bisconti eventually retired and moved to Florida about 30 years ago. These days, in addition to her volunteer work, she focuses on living a healthy lifestyle.
Every morning she walks for 30 to 45 minutes. If it's raining, she climbs up and down her apartment complex's stairs for the same amount of time.
She cooks her own food and takes no medications, just vitamins.
"I don't need (medicine) because I take care of myself," she said.
Heidi Brennan, an assistant at the Oldsmar library, said that when she reaches her 90s, she hopes to be as fit as Bisconti.
"It's not like she runs marathons. She stays active," Brennan said. "She's my role model. She's given me a lot of good advice."
Brennan said that when her marriage hit a rocky stretch, Bisconti got her thinking.
"She told me, 'If you love somebody, act like it. If you don't, then why are you with them?' " said Brennan, who is still happily married today.
It's not just Bisconti's healthy habits that fuel her. When she walks into the library, it is like a second home, and she gets to spend time with people she considers family.
"I look forward to coming here every Wednesday," Bisconti said. "The girls here are fantastic ladies."
To Brennan, Bisconti deserves all of her awards.
"She has a heart for working hard," she said, "and being with us."
Director of Library Services Bert Weber said Bisconti has been with the library longer than she has.
"We have her as a volunteer," she said, "but she's the perfect employee."
Diedra Rodriguez can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.