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RUSSELL CO. HERO: Bringing laughter, cheer as librarian
In Apr. 26 issue, Russell County News
By Derek Aaron
Russell County News Editor

ABOVE: Cowell, who has also worked as a hairdresser and cashier, said she loves working at the library so much that her family makes fun of her looking forward to going to work on Monday. Here she is shown passing out crayons to her “Story Hour,” children. After the children color their picture, she displays them on the wall for all to see.

Over the years she has touched hundreds of children’s lives through the Russell County Public Library, the elementary schools and head start programs.

Her name is Fillamay Cowell and she has been chosen as this week’s “Russell County Hero,” but to her children she will always be just Ms. Fill.

Ms. Fill, the children’s librarian, is best known for having “Story Hour,” at both the Russell Springs and Jamestown branches of the library.
During the hour she reads to children and also shows them a short video or DVD, plays games and gets them involved with crafts.

Wanda Brown, whose granddaughter Elie York attends “Story Hour,” said Ms. Fill handles the children with great ease.

“She does a wonderful job,” Brown said. “Her patience is unmatched and (the children) just lover her.”

Brown, who’s had four grandchildren attend Ms. Fill’s story hour, said every child that attends loves her.

“Even when they get in school they want to come back and visit Ms. Fill,” she said. “Whenever they get a little too active, she gets them up and lets them move around a little bit.”

Ms. Fill has been with the library for 17 years and has been involved with “Story Hour,” ever since.

“Some of the first children I had (in “Story Hour”) are now in college,” she said. “One of our old “Story Hour” girls, Jancee Wright, a senior, is now job shadowing with us this week.”

Cowell, who has also worked as a hairdresser and cashier, said she loves working at the library so much that her family makes fun of her looking forward to going to work on Monday.

“I really do like working with the children,” she said. “I get great joy out of getting them enthused about reading.”

She said that “Story Hour” attendance hasn’t fluctuated too much throughout the years.

“Some year’s attendance gets low but it stays pretty regular,” she said.
Cowell also travels to all four county elementary schools and sometimes Russell County Middle School to read to the children there. She has also done that for a number of years, she said.

“I used to do “Story Hour” at (Fair Oaks) nursing home also and that was pretty interesting,” she said.

But children between the ages of 2-5 are her first love and she has learned a lot about what kind of books they like to have read to them over the years.

“They basically like books that rhyme or are silly, books about animals,” she said. “Those are the favorites.”

She said her children also love books that are just a little bit scary.
“Around Halloween they love those books,” she said. Cowell said every child is pretty much the same if you just show a general interest in them.

Carolyn White had her twin granddaughters, Lauren and Jenna, at a recent “Story Hour.”

“(Ms. Fill) is great,” she said. “She is patient with the children and has something different planned each time.”

The children enjoy the wide range of activities that Ms. Fill plans for them.

“I just try to be friendly and talk to the children,” she said. “The boys are a little more rambunctious but I had a boy and I have a grandson so I’m used to boys.”

Ms. Fill is actually Mrs. Fill as she has been married to Ron Cowell for 39 years. The couple moved here from Northwood, Ohio near Lake Erie in 1989 and she was luckily hired by Nila Wilson at the library soon thereafter.

The Cowells have one son and daughter-in-law, Mark and Treva Cowell. She has one step-granddaughter Amy Bowlin and one grandson, Bryce Cowell. She also has one great grandson, Alek Bowlin.

On Mondays at the Jamestown Library, Ms. Fill has “Story Hour,” at 1 p.m. and “fun time” at 3:30 p.m. for children that have attended school. On Tuesday she has a “Story Hour,” at 6 p.m. at the Russell Springs Library.

Wednesday she is back at Russell Springs for Headstart and then a 1 p.m. “Story Hour” at the Russell Springs branch library.

As noted earlier, Ms. Fill said she loves to get the children involved with crafts as well as reading.

“We do a lot of paper crafts and we do a lot of painting,” she said. “We use a lot of wooden cutouts, glue and glitter.”

She said she tries to have them do things they probably wouldn’t do at home because of the imminent mess that would be sure to follow.
On an interesting note, Ms. Fill said many of the children love to watch old film strips from the 70s and 80s.

“The children many times ask if we can watch a movie on the wall,” she said. “I would have guessed that with the technology we have now (the film strips) would be boring but I think they like it because it is different.”

When not at the library, Ms. Fill said her and her husband enjoy backpacking and hiking. She also said she enjoys gardening and sewing as well as crafts.

“I like to do everything,” she said. “That’s the problem.” She also enjoys antique and classic cars, a passion of her husband.

“I’m not mechanically inclined but I enjoy seeing them and riding them,” she said.

But her main passion is the library and the many children’s lives she’s touched during her 17 years in Russell County.

“I get to see the children learn to read and they’re all excited and then I direct them to books that make them more excited,” she said. “Some are reading really well now.” She said in June, the library will open up all “Story Hours,” for every member of the family. Many events will be featured during this summer reading program.

“I’m just really glad (the library) hired me,” she said. “I think I have the best job at the library.”
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The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
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