Speech given by Gwen Reichert:
When I was recently contacted by Nancy Sikes-Kline concerning today's ceremony and was told that Randolph Caldecott had a mention on the sign, I became very excited and most happily agreed to be a part of this ceremony. Thanks ever so much, Nancy, for remembering to remember Caldecott in such a nice manner.
I am delighted to have the privilege to represent the RANDOLPH CALDECOTT SOCIETY OF AMERICA, this morning. I am very pleased to have Art Boccieri, RCSA Vice President with me today and another of our RCSA members, Mary Jane Little, Director, St. Johns County Public Libraries.
The society was established in 1983 with St. Augustine as its societal base. Its membership is composed mostly of educators, librarians, and local community folks all who have a real interest in Randolph Caldecott, his art, life, and the maintenance of his grave site, here in historic Evergreen Cemetery.
Mr. Caldecott was an English illustrator, artist, and sculptor. He was born in the Roman walled town of Chester, England, located on the River Dee in 1846. Randolph was often challenged with poor health and he often selected warmer climes for the winter months. He and his wife, Marian, were attempting to escape winter in England in 1885 when they made their trip to America.
Caldecott was at the top of his career at this time, he was a well-respected artist and much beloved by family and friends who were all anxious about his health and who were in hopes that this trip would be of great benefit to him. Randolph and Marian sailed from Liverpool, England in the autumn of 1885 and arrived in Philadelphia with plans to visit the East Coast and other parts of our beautiful country, including California, before returning to England in the spring of 1886.
However, Randolph's health declined as their journey progressed. The last known illustration that he drew was in Charleston, South Carolina prior to their arrival in St. Augustine. He had hoped to send illustrations of American Life back to The London Graphic, a London newspaper, to which he often contributed. The Caldecotts were staying at the Magnolia Hotel, downtown, and were hopeful that rest would restore Randolph for the rest of their planned itinerary however, that was not to be. His health continued to decline and he died here, in St. Augustine, in February of 1886.
It must have been difficult for Marian to have his funeral and interment here in Evergreen knowing that she would be returning to England alone. However, she had great love and support from family and friends and knew that funds for his grave marker were being raised by the boys who then attended his former school, located the Cathedral, in Chester, England.
As most of you know, an annual award is giving by the American Library Association to the illustrator of the "best illustrated book for Children" published during the previous year, in honor of Randolph. The gold Caldecott medal is given for the "most outstanding illustrated book", and there are usually two or three silver medal runners up recognized each year, as well.
On Sunday, March 20, 2005, The Friends of the Main Library/RCSA held a ceremony here in Evergreen, to mark Caldecott's grave site as a "Literary Landmark". This was a significant honor in that Caldecott was the first to have a grave site so designated! My thanks go out, once again, to Mary Jane Little, who initiated and facilitated this honor, and to Valerie Pieschel, Manager at the Main Library, where the Randolph Caldecott Children's Room is located. Valerie served as liaison for the Literary Landmark application and the securing of the plaque. In appreciation for her assistance and hard work she was given the honor of unveiling the Literary Landmark plaque, which rests at the foot of Caldecott's grave.
The local First Coast Pilot Club of St. Augustine and the Caldecott Society jointly sponsor a Caldecott Art Award, annually, to a deserving local high school art student. This year's recipient was honored this past Tuesday at a luncheon held at Le Pavillon.
I would like to express a public appreciation to the Board of County Commissioners, the Board which created the Randolph Caldecott Children's Room at the Main St. Augustine Library in May of 1990, and the present Board which continues to recognize the artistic contribution of Randolph Caldecott and the local significance of his burial here in Evergreen.