For 95-year-old Hazel Severson, the decision was straightforward. The book didn't belong to her, so she needed to return it.
"It was the library's book," she said. "I wanted to get it back to them."
So what if the book – "Seaplane Solo," Sir Francis Chichester's autobiographical account of his 1930 solo flight across the Tasman Sea – was 74 years overdue from the public library in Amador County? To Severson, returning the book was the right thing to do, period.
With the help of her longtime South Land Park neighbors, Jim and Laurie Gibson, she turned the book over to Amador County librarian Laura Einstadter on Oct. 13.
She even offered to pay an overdue fee of $2,701, or 10 cents a day, which the library refused to accept.
"I don't want people to think we'd make her pay," said Einstadter. "We were happy to have the book back. It's lovely that she and the neighbors cared enough."
When people worry that older Americans' solid sense of values is vanishing from American life along with their generation, maybe this is part of what they mean: Hazel Severson's unwavering grasp of right and wrong and her strong sense of obligation.
"This is a very typical example of what the Greatest Generation did and still does," said Eskaton Vice President Lynette Tidwell.
Top among the values that demographers widely ascribe to these older Americans are dedication, hard work, sacrifice and conforming to the rules. As Tidwell notes, members of this generation have also tended to put the public good ahead of their personal interest.
Because they had to.
"They took care of each other," she said, "because they lived through the Depression and World War II."
In contrast, San Diego State University researchers say that as the "Greatest Generation" fades away, Americans' personality traits have shifted toward self-involvement and narcissism.
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