TAMPA — For somebody who knew how to live in the moment, Clarice Ruder sure thought ahead. She rose through the ranks of the Tampa-Hillsborough library system by keeping abreast of changing technology. She handled customers and employees with a direct and friendly style.
She did so well that her bosses selected her to open the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library and placed her in charge of creating inventory.
She didn't complain about health problems or let them keep her from going to work. But from her 40s on, Mrs. Ruder knew she was looking at a shorter lifespan compared to other women her age. A "rogue gene" affecting the heart runs in her family, one so rare it has been studied by Harvard researchers, her husband said.
Rather than pass it on, she refrained from having children.
Mrs. Ruder, a 34-year veteran of Hillsborough County's library system who left her stamp on the content and design of the Platt library, died Monday, three weeks after her retirement. She was 61.
"They don't make librarians like Clarice anymore," said Joe Stines, Tampa-Hillsborough's director of libraries.
Ken Kister met Clarice Ruder in 1974, when her resume stood out among a stack of applications for the librarian's job in Palm Beach County.
"She had such glowing references," said Kister, 74. "The word 'nice' was used. The word 'pleasant' was used."
Within months of Mrs. Ruder starting her job as an adult services librarian, she and Kister began dating. They married in 1975 (she kept her last name) and moved to Tampa the next year, where Mrs. Ruder hired on at the John F. Germany Public Library in history and genealogy services.
They enjoyed concerts on weekends and traveled when they could. She liked to get dirty in the garden, and was always jotting down horticulture tips she found. She drove a Honda, packed every garbage bag full before taking it out, and arrived at the grocery store with foreknowledge of every two-for-one bargain available.
The library system promoted her to head the Riverview Branch Library and what is now called the Charles J. Fendig Public Library.
In 1997 at the Fendig library, Mrs. Ruder spotted a dark-haired man calling up images of nude women on a library computer, and showing them to young boys beside him. The story came to symbolize the dark side of the Internet.
Opening the Platt library in 2000 was a dream come true. It would become her legacy as heart trouble cut her years short.
"She took that on as if it were her child," said Jan Platt, the former Hillsborough county commissioner for whom the library is named. "It was a unique opportunity, and thank goodness it was Clarice."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]