OTTER TAIL COUNTY, Minn. — Every time Mary Therese Alberg opens up her "hobbit house" themed Little Free Library on Otter Tail Lake she thinks of who spent months building it.

"He was a kind, kind man, he was a renaissance man. He could do a little bit of everything. The stones are left over from our front step that we put on our house," Alberg said.

Her husband, Dennis Stanford, died two years ago.

"He was an artist. He was a compassionate man who embraced all walks of life." she said.

When vandals recently damaged the Little Free Library, they also left behind a hateful, racist message. Catherine Barner and her daughter, Arne Gudmestad, saw it first.

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"I was watering and I saw the door was open and thought someone took a book," Barner said.

But what the women found was disturbing, not only were all the books missing and the hobbit house damaged, but inside a hateful message.

Inside, vandals had painted racist graffiti. On a free library, a hobbit house, where children come.

"Unnerving to think that can happen in rural Otter Tail County," Gudmestad said.

"I just wonder why they did it. It doesn't make any sense," Alberg said.

The women, all retired teachers, repaired the damage and filled it with books.

"We thought we are going to carry on. We are carrying on his mission, they did not win." Alberg said.

The free library is now under video surveillance. The Otter Tail County Sheriff's office is investigating the vandalism.