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In memory of Debbie Alvarez, The Styling Librarian

(Edited July 17, 2017: I have removed the links to her blog since it looks as if someone else has bought the domain and is using it for advertising. :-( )

Deeply saddened to hear that teacher/librarian Debbie Alvarez has died. Though we never had the chance to hang out in person, Debbie and I have emailed each other as well chatting on social media. She has been so generous in her support of me and my work on her blog, including a post just last week. 

Like many others, I'm a fan of her blog, The Styling Librarian:

I love the tagline in the top right corner: "In my opinion, books are the best accessory."

The portrait in the top left corner was done by me. While Debbie was interviewing me for her blog early last year, I discovered that she was just about to have a surgery (she didn't say what it was for), so I asked for her address so I could send her something to help cheer her up while she was recovering. She was hesitant, saying that it was sweet of me to offer but that shipping to Hong Kong was crazy expensive, and that my found object art posts already brightened up her days. I insisted, and here's what she wrote about it (link removed)

Photo: BENJAMIN BRINK/The Oregonian

 Debbie never mentioned the word "cancer" in any of our emails; I only found out when I followed one of her post links to her personal blog, and then scrolled back to older entries. And then I felt like an idiot, because I remember telling Debbie about having a cold bug in the household when she first approached me about doing an interview. I was complaining about a cold and there Debbie was, about to head into cancer-related surgery.

Sometimes the lack of comments on my own blog made me wonder how many people actually read it, but Debbie encouraged me: "So excited, just love how you share thoughts with others, your enthusiasm got me to finally pick up a pen and become persistent with my own writing and join SCBWI here in Hong Kong." 

Despite what she was going through, Debbie continued to support others, post on her blog about the love of reading, and embrace life as fully as possible. Debbie Alvarez was an inspiration to me, and the world is a lesser place without her.

The illustration above is dedicated to Debbie, who told me she loved how I could find beauty in the ordinary. In the background: a photo I took in a drive-through car wash. 

In the foreground: Debbie Alvarez, who was anything but ordinary.

Reader Comments (16)

Enriching the lives of others - best way to live life. Thanks for sharing, celebrating a life that enriched many.

December 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAHAnto

Debbie's blog posts were an inspiration. She is mourned by many who never met her in person. Thanks for writing up this tribute.

December 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline Jules

Alas, when the world loses another awesome teacher-librarian, it because a much poorer place.

December 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLynne Lumsden Green

Your memory of Debbie is so sweet, an important connection from afar, showing her consistent kindness to everyone. I've had the pleasure of following Debbie's blogs for several years, mostly connecting through the It's Monday group & Facebook, but also reading her personal blog. I tried to give support as much as I could since I really was a stranger, yet I admired her honesty in sharing what she was going through, trying so, so many procedures, and saying again and again, "I can do this." She fought so hard to beat cancer, and did for a long time. I won't forget this champion of books all the way until her final day. I enjoyed hearing about your time with her. It's a nice tribute to who she was.

December 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Baie

Beautiful tribute!

December 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTina Cho

Thank you for such beautiful thoughts. Debbie was an amazing woman, she was a gift.

December 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHillary Moldovan

So sad. Debbie was my elementary school librarian and she was the person who got me into reading and writing. She will be missed.

December 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMikayla

Debbie, I lost a very dear friend to cancer two weeks ago. She too was a light in this often dark world, and embraced life up until the very end. These women will live on.

December 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commentertricia

Very touching. Thanks, Debbie, for highlightling this special librarian and letting us know about her and our loss.

December 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercarol gordon ekster

Thank you for sharing this. I've been following The Styling Librarian blog for over a year and have enjoyed Debbie's book recommendations. I'm so sad to hear this news.

December 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Ellsworth

What a beautiful tribute to such a wonderful lady.

December 26, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermichelle eastman

I love that your illustration shows Debbie dancing with books in hand. She loved to dance! She would be so pleased with that picture. Thank you for honoring her in this way.

December 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Thank you for this post. Debbie organised a school visit for me in Hong Kong a couple of years ago now. She turned up even though it was her day off and the school was well primed for my visit. I kept in touch with her ever since, via her blog and Facebook. Despite the dire circumstances, her continuing loveliness and book advocacy was astonishing. I didn't know her well but I will miss her very much.

January 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCandy Gourlay

This is a beautiful tribute! ❤️

January 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAkiko White

I used to be her student in Bradbury but when I moved to secondary she
Passed away. She was very nice in Bradbury, you will be missed.

February 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Does the Wayback link work for her site? I didn't know about her, just read what you have posted. Would be nice to still see what she built/ created.

July 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

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