MEIGS COUNTY — Some contributions are public and visible, while others, are done behind the scenes and often go unnoticed. Such is the case with Mary Delores King of Pomeroy, who in the past three years has crocheted over 465 hats for cancer patients and “people in other countries who just need a warm hat.”
Each year, members of the Modern Woodmen of America recognize the work of individuals in their community who are dedicated to serving others, and make a donation to a charity of the honored person’s choice. This year, Meigs County Chapter 7230 in Burlingham chose to honor King for her work during a surprise picnic in her honor; she named Chester Shade Historical Association as the recipient of the donation.
King has a long history of being involved in her community, and said “I was born and raised in Meigs County. When I married, I moved two miles down the road and have lived there for 70 years.”
King proudly shared that she was “going on 90”, “I’ll be 90 next April, the Lord willing, but I’m not old yet.”
Her definition of “old” is to be ill tempered, possessive, complaining, not wanting to do anything. She remembers hearing her aunt saying to her children that when she got old, if she ever got “cranky” they should tell her to stop. Her aunt was over 90 years old at the time, and King said that statement has remained with her throughout her life.
She said her secret is to “stay busy.”
“My mother also never got “old”, and I didn’t want to either. I didn’t want to be cranky with a bad disposition, so I’ve stayed busy.”
King worked alongside her husband on their farm, had six children, retired as a bus driver in 1993 after 25 years on the job, and began another career quilting. She cared for her aging parents for 12 years and her mother-in law for five.
“We raised five girls and one boy, and were married 55 years before my husband passed away suddenly. I drove a school bus, then I began quilting quilts for everyone around,” she said. “I quilted 140 quilts, then I stopped doing that when I wasn’t able to see as well. I cared for my parents and mother-in law, there was always something to do.”
Now she is crocheting, and relates her story of how she learned the skill.
“My mother was determined I would learn to crochet, and I was determined I wouldn’t. I did not like to crochet at all, so I would make my stitches really tight on purpose, and when my mother would tell me they weren’t right, I would have to do it again. I would tell her that I just couldn’t do it and I kept making the stitches too tight. My mother kept making me do it over, so I gave up and began crocheting.”
When King developed breast cancer three years ago, she stayed with her daughter Grace King Scott in Marion, Ohio, while taking treatments at James Cancer Center in Columbus. Resolved to “keep busy, I can’t just sit here,” her daughter took her to visit the nearby retirement center where volunteers were crocheting hats.
“One woman just couldn’t crochet no matter how hard she tried, so I told her I could, and we agreed that I would make the hats and she would distribute the ones we volunteers made, and so it began…”
This cancer survivor has made hats 165 that have gone to James Cancer Center and 300 to other groups.
“My hats went to the James Cancer Center, to my daughter Grace for whoever needed them, I think some went to Romania, and to my daughter Jeneoa King Stanphill in Florida to give to missionaries. And I’m still crocheting.”
King enjoys traveling, but will miss her companion of 16 years,
“It will be different when I get on the plane to go to Florida this winter, Snooks went everywhere with me, my husband brought home a Jack Russell puppy a year before he passed. I didn’t want a dog, but I guess God knew that I would need him. I don’t know what I would have done without him he was always there for me.”
As King spends her winter in Florida, she said she will continue making hats, and has plenty of yarn thanks to her family.
“I never run out of yarn, “ King said. “I can’t get around like I used to, so I just keep making hats, it is the way I can ‘keep busy’ now.”
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for The Daily Sentinel.