Jonathan Aubrey, a longtime reference librarian at the Great Neck Library, died on Monday, July 24. He was 52.
Aubrey had Crohn’s disease for most of his life, family members said.
Family, friends and colleagues recalled Aubrey as a lively and kind man with a variety of interests, determined in his research and always trying to help others. It wasn’t uncommon for him to bring in baked goods for meetings and other events, they said, and he always came armed with humor and ideas.
“He was such an intelligent, thoughtful person,” Joel Marcus, vice president of the library’s Board of trustees, said at a meeting last Tuesday. “Every time he spoke, I feel that it was important information and useful information, and it’s a great loss to the library and to all of us.”
Aubrey, a Great Neck native and resident, began working at the library as a clerk in 1999 in the circulation department. After earning a Master of Library Science degree, he became a reference librarian in 2002. He also served as president of the Great Neck Library Staff Association, an organization that represents library employees.
David Aubrey, Jonathan’s brother who works in the library’s media department, said his brother had interests like puppetry, writing, art and rock and roll. He worked at a variety of places before coming to the library, including a children’s book store and Plaza Printing and Copying in Great Neck.
“Being a librarian is something where you interact with many different fields,” David said in an interview. “Not just literature.”
Margery Chodosch, the interim head of the reference department and a member of the Great Neck Library Staff Association, first met Aubrey around 15 years ago. She said he was always helpful to both staff and librarians, as well as brimming with ideas.
“He was a very caring individual who loved his work and was well respected by staff and patrons,” Chodosch said.
In addition to his regular work, Chodosch said, Aubrey was dedicated to expanding the Great Neck Library Historical Collection and managing the local history blog. This involved collecting photographs and documents, and drawing upon his own memories of businesses and people as a native.
“He knew that collection and now we’re going to have to try and remember as best we can where to find certain things in that collection,” Chodosch said, noting the hours he would spend working on it.
Alice Kasten, president of the Great Neck Historical Society, described Aubrey as “vitally interested” in local history and always helpful. She said that his help was pivotal in publishing their book about Great Neck.
“He was very helpful when you tried to research anything,” Kasten recalled. “He was a real friend to the historical society.”
Aubrey also enjoyed working on library programs, bringing in famous authors and representing the library at the annual street fairs, according to the library. The library also described him as instrumental in getting the library’s art collection stored before beginning building renovations in 2014.
Aubrey’s kindness and dedication, however, went beyond his work.
“Jon really loved a good challenge, but Jon was also compassionate and cared for all living things,” Janet Fine, the former head of circulation and computer services at the library, wrote online. “He sought help for abandoned kittens, turtles trapped in debris in the library’s pond and he adopted a stray dog living in his neighborhood.”
“Jon is gone much too soon and he will be greatly missed,” Fine said.
Courtney Greenblatt, a friend and colleague of Aubrey’s for at least 10 years, recalled him as someone equipped with a “quirky” and “offbeat” sense of humor. He was also a lover of food — as evidenced by his frequent baking — music, movies and people, she said.
“He didn’t have a bad thing to say about people,” said Greenblatt, 41, a young adult librarian. “He was just that kind of person. We wish there were more people that way.”
Aubrey is predeceased by his mother, Bearice Aubrey, who served on the library’s music committee, and his father, Gerald Aubrey. Aubrey’s brother David and sister Alana survive him.
A graveside service was held on Sunday at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon, N.Y.