After 86 years of a fruitful and loving life, Ondina S. González, Associate Professor Emerita of Library Science at Berry College and a long-time resident of Rome, has moved on to the joyful presence of her Lord. She was preceded there almost twenty years ago by her husband the Rev. Dr. Jorge A. González, who long served as the Callaway Professor of Religion at Berry College. A native of Cuba, Mrs. González received her basic education in that country. After her husband’s ordination as a Methodist pastor, they served several churches throughout Cuba. During one pastorate, the family had the harrowing experience of having to hide under their dining room table while the city was bombarded by the army. By 1961, the political unrest in the country forced Ondina and Jorge to decide that they must raise their three young children in a different environment. After many difficulties, they finally left their native country, expecting that their time abroad would be brief. They never returned. Upon arriving in the United States, the family settled in Atlanta where Ondina enrolled in Emory University’s School of Library Science. At first their life in the United States was difficult. Years later Ondina would write to her grandchildren: “The only way I can describe that first year is by calling it one of the most difficult, despairing, distressing and saddest years in my life. I will start by telling you that when I landed in Miami I did not know how to speak, write, or understand spoken English. I was able to read it, not very easily, but passably.” Despite her language difficulties, Ondina showed her mettle by setting for herself an impossible goal. In the same letter to her grandchildren she would later say: “With that monumental language handicap I began to attend classes at Emory. I didn’t feel at the time completely powerless, but I believed my situation would be much better as time passed and I applied myself beyond what I even thought possible. And blessings, friendship and support came my way as I struggled.” Ondina persevered and received her degree in library science. In 1962, she was hired by Berry College, first as a cataloger and from 1976 to her retirement in 1995, as Director of the Library. She and her husband constantly expressed an enthusiastic gratitude for the warm embrace with which they were welcomed by the Berry community, and the community at large. Ondina wrote: “My personal experience as an immigrant in this country was one of acceptance and welcome. My authority in my work or in organizations I headed was never questioned or challenged, nor was I disrespected or humiliated for who I was.” Mrs. González gave herself wholeheartedly to her work at the library which she considered a calling. She played an important role in the design and expansion of the library, so that during her tenure its collection more than doubled, the physical plant was equally expanded, and the entire operation was automated by employing emerging technologies. On the occasion of her retirement, Dr. Gloria Shatto, president of Berry, declared that “Ondina has worked tirelessly to help make the library at Berry one of the finest of any small college in the country. Today, the operation of Memorial Library is a tribute to her leadership and determination. The Berry community will benefit for years to come from her hard work.” Indeed, it has. Ondina’s significant contributions were not limited to Berry College. She was an active member of the American Association of University Women, the Georgia Library Association, and the Southeastern Library Association. Her professional expertise and insight were sought out on accreditation teams visiting colleges and universities across the country and internationally. Ondina was also a member of the Citizen Review Panel for Floyd County DFCS, which worked with families, social workers, and the juvenile court for the benefit and welfare of children. Mrs. González was an active participant and honored leader in the United Methodist Church. In Rome, she was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church. She served the denomination more widely through membership on a number of national commissions and committees focused on women’s issues. She also served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Methodist History and did translation work for the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Women. After retiring from Berry and after her husband’s death, Mrs. González moved to Atlanta. Son Jorge Luis preceded her in death. Her closest surviving relatives, all of them mourning her loss and yet rejoicing over her life, are her daughter Ondina, her son Carlos, her brother-in-law Justo, and their spouses, Karl Lehman, Marilyn González, and Catherine González. Her three grandsons, Matthew, Jordan, and Jorge will long cherish her memory. Her family are all aware of her many achievements, honors, and contributions, but to them the memory of Ondina is above all a memory of care, of love, of courage, and of instruction. As they say good-bye to her, they do so with profound and enduring gratitude for having known her as a mother, as a grandmother, as an in-law. Their love goes with her and will remain with her forever. A Celebration of Ondina’s Life will be held on May 25, 2019, at the Berry College Chapel. In lieu of flowers, gifts in honor of Ondina may be directed to the González Family Endowment at Berry College: P.O. Box 590069, Mt. Berry, GA 30149.
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