Fayetteville is a beautiful town in the Boston Mountains that's likely to soon become the second-largest city in Arkansas. And it has a lot going for it: a strong economy, a brilliant university, and an alluring entertainment district on Dickson Street.
Part of that entertainment district includes a nationally famous bookstore that so many people have come to love. And we're sad to say the co-founder of that bookstore died last week. His name was Charles O'Donnell, and he was 85.
Anyone who's been to the bookstore will likely be able to recall how magical it is. On the outside, it just looks like a long brick building at the corner of Dickson Street and North School Avenue. On the inside are endless Harry Potter-like halls filled with thousands of books that stretch for what seems like miles.
We've been there a few times, and there's just something fantastic about the smell of the old bookshop, a hidden wisdom dancing across surrounding pages, sometimes felt, never seen. It's easy to get lost in the Dickson Street Bookshop, both literally and metaphorically, within one of thousands of books.
And one of the most magical things about Mr. O'Donnell was if you asked him where something was, even vaguely, he could pull out a map and show you exactly where to look. We bought a few books from there through the years, but one of our favorites was a Calvin and Hobbes collection. The store had everything.
Comics? Right over there. Cookbooks revealing hidden Indonesian cuisine? Go down a few rows and turn left. Obscure fiction series about a secret agent during World War II? Check that stack over there behind the framed map. If you wanted it, Dickson Street Bookshop likely had it.
The bookshop also helped the Fayetteville Public Library get some rare books back that had been stolen. One of our friends who works there told us someone was taking valuable first-edition books and attempting to sell them to the Dickson Street Bookshop. Well, someone at the bookshop recognized the books, got the cops involved, and the library got some of its books back. Isn't there something about books of a feather sticking together?
It seems in life, Mr. O'Donnell also got a little bit of everything. His obituary (which you can read here: https://bit.ly/30aBOin) said he fought in the Korean War, developed and overcame a drinking problem and survived some pretty serious heart and kidney problems that failed to take him down before his time. The guy even worked up until the day before he died. Talk about a trooper.
When his physical health eventually prevented him from working at the store, Mr. O'Donnell simply decided he'd continue work from home. And this was between dialysis, doctors' appointments and hospital stays. That's a sign of a man who has built something dear to his heart and won't let anything short of the Grim Reaper stop him from being involved with it.
The obituary is full of grand humor, saying he loved "the Boston Red Sox (even this season, the bums)." Something tells us he probably had a hand in crafting the obituary.
Our favorite line from the whole thing was that Mr. O'Donnell claimed he read every title that came through his bookshop, which seems impossible, but isn't really. It seems Mr. O'Donnell stayed sharp right up until he left this world.
Fayetteville owes him quite a bit for starting that famous bookshop and brightening the lives of residents for decades. And we send along our condolences to Mr. O'Donnell's family. May you find peace through this loss.
Thanks for the books and the laughs, Mr. O'Donnell. We need more of both in this world each day. Now if we could only learn more about that shotgun blast that took out a bookshop window and very nearly hit Mr. O'Donnell. Some mysteries persist.
Editorial on 08/20/2019
Print Headline: EDITORIAL: Goodbye, old friend