She retired almost twenty years ago (rather abruptly, as was her wont), but many long-term members and employees of Denver Botanic Gardens shall never forget Solange Gignac--the feisty, passionate and accomplished librarian who transformed the Helen Fowler Library. She began with a few shelves of dusty books in a corner of the Waring House and acquired tens of thousands of volumes and vast array of serials that constitute one of the largest open-stack botanical libraries on planet Earth.
Everyone who knew her had a "Solange" story...I have enough to fill a small volume. Perhaps even a tome. The day a former editor of the Denver Post whisked into the library and greeted all the "swell gals" there, and Solange icily thanked him for being such a friendly "boy." Or the way she unfailingly clicked her hidden clicker each time someone stepped into the library (she was a stickler for detail and statistics) no matter how amusing my anecdote might be. Or the not-so- mock horror on her face when she realized the Flora iranica she promised to buy for me cost thousands of dollars. "Can't you develop a taste for less expensive books?" she pleaded (but ordered it nonetheless).
She loved plants and people (perhaps in that order) almost as much as she loved her job. She threw countless parties celebrating almost any occasion (visiting dignitaries, staff Christmas parties, farewell parties, engagement parties). Her home on Hilltop was airy and large and impeccably French in flavor, and she was a superb cook. She was passionately devoted to Denver Botanic Gardens, and to our staff. She loved nothing more than to have staff use the library for their break room, and make all the noise they wanted in that sacred space. I can see her beaming as I type this.
Solange was lucky to have an incredibly devoted spouse, Alan Huggins, who preceded her in death, and seven devoted children, who comforted her greatly in her last years. An obituary with greater detail can be found online.
Au revoir, mon amie. Nous nous rencontrerons à nouveau dans une bibliothèque céleste?