Hannelore Headley is a remarkable woman. At age 21 she became Canada's youngest independent book seller in Vancouver BC shortly after arriving from Shanghai with her family. Hannelore spent her youth in China after fleeing Nazi Germany with her parents in advance of the horrors about to be inflicted on Europe during the late 1930's and early 1940's.
Her family left Berlin in 1939 to find refuge in Shanghai. She was barely three years old at the time. Hannelore spent fourteen years there and learned much about the world as a young lady. During her family's stay in Shanghai she mastered the craft of book dealing from her late father and later would established her own business using the many skills he shared with her.
Later, as a grown woman, Hannelore moved to St. Catharines, ON where she raised a family and continued to work in the book trade. She operates two truly fine book stores which are filled with fine old volumes that Hanna personally selects from the myriads of titles brought to her by people cleaning out book shelves. Hannelore's knowledge of books is immense and she has an Honorary Doctorate which signifies her many accomplishments in the world of book selling.
Recently, she published a memoir of her early life. Entitled Blond China Doll - A Shanghai Interlude: 1939-1953, the book is a wonderful story and marvelous read. Set against the backdrop of turbulent times, Hannelore places personal scale onto the difficult and horrific era from the late 1930's through to the early fifties.
I first met Hannelore in 1992 when I began to earnestly acquire books on the topic of kites and the history of early aviation. After several visits to her shop on Queen Street in St. Catharines we engaged in longer conversations and she discovered the source of my quest. She suggested that she and her staff would look for items that came into her collection on the topic of kites and keep them aside for me.
Our friendship has grown over the past fourteen years and it is always a treat to visit with her in her store. I am not sure who is more excited when a "kite book treasure" has turned up. From children's books, to kite illustrations or photos in a book that has little to do with kiting in general, to full fledged works on kites and kite pioneers, Hannelore has steadfastly sought out items for my research library.
Just yesterday I made one of my periodic stops at her store. Although she did not have any treasured items for me, her warm greeting and our conversation lifted my day and enriched me with her genuine interest in how I am doing.
I truly appreciate Hannelore's friendship, her keen eye and her sharp memory in keeping watch for resources to build my kite library! She has such amazing knowledge about books, authors, history of the world and so many topics that she is awe inspiring.