Among the family, friends and the community she has — and continues to — contribute so much to, longtime Santa Monica resident Sharla P. Boehm celebrated her 90th birthday with a reception Wednesday at the Santa Monica Public Library.

Despite being the birthday girl, Boehm was the one gifting presents Wednesday as she and her husband donated $60,000 to assist the local library branch in digitizing the city’s telephone directories, which date back to 1896 and are some of the most comprehensive records used by local history and genealogy researchers.

“It might sound boring but these records are extremely important resources to many genealogists and historians,” said Susan Lamb, the library’s principal librarian of reference services.

“I receive phone calls from detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department on occasion,” who are working on cold cases and rely on the directories to track down people from the 1940s and ‘50s, Lamb added, before sharing another story where an adopted woman was able to connect with family using the historic records.

“So telephone directories — like I said — they don’t sound miraculous but they contain rich and important information. And we hold the largest number in the country so it’s going to be a great thing to preserve that,” Lamb said. “Thank you very much Boehm family.”

About Sharla

Born Dec. 4, 1929, Boehm moved to Santa Monica as a child and attended Roosevelt Elementary School, Lincoln Middle School and Santa Monica High School, where she excelled at mathematics.

After earning her bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s credential at UCLA, Sharla began working at RAND Corporation in 1959 and was a key partner with Paul Baran, one of the internet’s pioneers, in developing and publishing on a switching program in Fortran.

“One of the engineers was researching something that eventually became part of the internet,” Barry said, describing the intricacies of his wife’s work during an era when women weren’t usually considered for positions of power.

“So the RAND report that later came out, the engineer said Sharla did most of the work so she should be the lead author,” Barry said. “And if you want to see more about it, just go to Wikipedia and you’ll find Sharla’s pictures and what she did for the internet.”

Sharla and Barry married in 1961, and Sharla eventually left RAND to raise her two daughters, Romney and Tenley.

Immediately thrusting herself into the thick of the community, Boehm became a Girl Scout Leader, math tutor and a tremendous role model to young women who she urged to dream big.

Some of the residents inspired by Boehm were in attendance Wednesday to celebrate the momentous donation alongside city leaders like Mayor Gleam Davis and City Manager Rick Cole.

Being a former girl scout herself, Davis said she’d be remiss if she didn’t mention Sharla’s role with the girl scouts before delving into the immense amount of time the Boehms have contributed to making the library what it is today.

Having served on the Santa Monica Public Library Board from 1989 to 1998 and filled the role of treasurer for the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library for fourteen years, the Santa Monica Public Library knows Sharla as a long-term and beloved volunteer, Davis said. “She’s been a tremendous role model and a stalwart in this community.”

brennon@smdp.com

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