By Ron Hayes
HIGHLAND BEACH — Joanne Freeman loved books.
Ms. Freeman, a former bookstore owner who volunteered with the Friends of the Highland Beach Library and later was a part-time member of the staff, died Feb. 6 after battling cancer. She was 77.
“She was a wonderful person,” said Mari Suarez, the library’s director from 1998 until 2015. “She was very active in helping the library grow, and I loved her as a friend.”
At one time, Ms. Freeman owned the Delray Mall Bookstore and another in the former Boca Raton Mall before its rebirth as Mizner Park. And then in retirement she turned her attention to her town’s library.
Beginning in 1998, she served as the first president of the Friends of the Highland Beach Library when it was still housed in the Town Hall.
“After her term ended in 2003, I said, ‘Why not come to work here?’” Suarez recalled, “and she came to work with us.”
Until her departure four years ago, Ms. Freeman worked part-time, helping in the library’s move into its own building in 2006 and adding a bit of international flavor to the annual Christmas tree. “She said to me, ‘Why don’t we do a different theme for the tree each year with decorations that celebrate a country?’ ” Suarez explained.
Mexico, Japan, Italy, Ukraine — each year the library Christmas tree honored a different country.
“The one she enjoyed the most was the Austrian one,” Suarez recalled. “She was full of ideas, and many of the ornaments she made herself.”
A graduate of Bryant College in Providence, R.I., she is survived by John Cicale, her longtime companion; a sister, Patricia Foster; two brothers, Stanley Gavlick and Thomas Gavlick; and nieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass was held Feb. 20 at St. Lucy Catholic Church.