Virginia Hull loves to crochet.  The Immanuel Skilled Care Center resident always has a project in progress, and she frequently carries her yarn and hook with her.  On a couple of occasions, I’ve run into her just as she’s about to leave for or just getting home from a shopping trip to the hobby store to buy more yarn.

It’s a passion that goes back almost forty years.  Virginia began with fine thread crocheting (think doilies and tablecloths), and while she enjoyed it enough to keep up the hobby generally, she really wanted to make blankets, scarves, and other crafts typically created with heavier yarn.  The process is different enough from fine thread work that she took a night class in 1980 in Sidney, Montana, to help her make the transition.  Once she started this kind of crocheting, she didn’t stop.

Family has always been very important to Virginia.  Her parents emigrated from Greece and moved to Grand Junction, Colorado before she was born.  Her father was killed in a mining accident when she was a young child, but she was fortunate to have a very nice stepfather.  The family—including Virginia’s older brother and two younger half siblings—had a happy life in Grand Junction, where Virginia lived until she moved to Sidney for her husband’s job.  Virginia has two daughters as well as one son who sadly passed away as a young man.  “We had a lot of fun,” she recalls fondly when she talks about her children’s younger days.  And her children are the reason why she’s in Kalispell—she followed her daughter here after her daughter moved to be closer to her own children (Virginia’s grandchildren).

Family is also in the foreground of Virginia’s mind when she’s crocheting.  She took up the craft in earnest because she wanted to make blankets for her grandchildren when they graduated from high school.  Other projects include at least 2-3 blankets for each of her daughters as well as a king-size bedspread.  A lap blanket Virginia crocheted for her mother in her nursing-home days now hangs over the back of Virginia’s wheelchair, and Virginia’s work connects the two women even now.

On the day I spoke with Virginia, she was working on a red, white, and blue lap blanket.  She’s not sure exactly who it’s for yet, but it’s sure to find a home with someone who appreciates it.  It might be a little bit before it’s done, though—with the holidays approaching, Virginia has some other projects that have to take priority, so she’s going to be busy.  That’s okay; Virginia likes to be busy.  When I asked her what she likes about crocheting, she replied, “It’s relaxing, but it keeps me busy and keeps my mind working.”

The mischievous smile on Virginia’s face in her photo gives you a small glimpse of her engaging personality.  She was a pleasure to talk with, and I look forward to seeing more of her and her creations around campus.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Clyde Pederson, the first of many Passions Project participants you’ll be meeting over the coming months.  Clyde’s passion is woodcarving.  If you look around the Buffalo Hill Terrace apartment he shares with his wife, Jeanine, you’ll see everything from bark houses like the one pictured above to whimsical carvings of mucus (yes, mucus).

When I asked him what he likes best about wood carving, Clyde replied, “It’s a good hobby because it’s portable…  You can carve any place you can sit.”  The number of carvings in the apartment alone suggests that he sat and carved in a lot of different places.  Jeanine would certainly say this is the case, though he most often carved in their home.  “His passion was woodcarving,” she recalled, “and my job was vacuuming up wood shavings!”

Clyde began carving when he was in high school.  He still has his first carvings, a tiny ball in a box and an interlocking chain.  But he had a lot more time to carve after he retired from his work as a farmer.  When he and Jeanine were camped at an RV park, they came across a fellow camper who was carving small boots.  Clyde was inspired to take up his own knife and chisel, and a passion was born. Also, he had lost the sight in his right eye and had reduced depth perception, so when he was considering a hobby to pursue in his retirement, carving seemed safer than the kind of woodworking done with power tools.

Clyde never took a class in woodcarving.  Instead, he used books.  He even learned the intricate art of bark carving from a book.  However, it’s sometimes difficult to use pictures as precise examples, especially with bark.  He emphasized this when he taught bark carving during his and Jeanine’s winter stints in Arizona.  Sometimes, he said, it was hard to explain to his students that carving isn’t just about replicating what you see in front of you.  “You can’t duplicate a [bark] carving because the bark dictates what you can do,” Clyde told us during his photo session.  “You have to be creative.”

Clyde certainly is creative!  He took his inspiration from everything in the world around him and from the wood in front of him.  Local wildlife has inspired carvings of deer, elk, and bears, while pharmaceutical commercials have inspired more whimsical pieces like toenail fungus and, yes, mucus.  Clyde carved what he saw in the wood.

Sometimes, Clyde bought the wood he used in his carvings.  His favorite wood was basswood.  It’s soft, fine-grained, and white, which makes it versatile and easy to carve. He also used material he found locally, especially when carving bark.  The banks of the Flathead River provided a lot of trees with good bark.  For bark carving, Clyde explained, you need a tree that’s been dead for long enough that the bark is loose.  It’s also important that it be thick enough to hold together when carved but not so thick that you have to cut too much away.  Some of his carvings were even inspired by found objects or trash.  He’s made a series of ducks out of old wooden golf clubs—showing that one man’s trash is indeed another’s treasure!

Clyde isn’t able to carve much anymore (a hand tremor makes it unsafe), but he still talks about it with great pride, and it’s clear he’s passionate about it.  When he put on his protective gear and picked up his tools for the photo, it was like he’d never put them down.  Clyde’s carvings are unique and special, and it was a pleasure to learn more about them—and him!

I’d like you to meet Delsie B.  90-year-old Delsie has lived at the Immanuel Skilled Care Center since 2014, when a stroke made it impossible for her to care for herself. Delsie is beautiful inside and out; her beautiful smile, smooth skin and well-cared-for clothes are only outshined by her positive and happy demeanor. Today, I want you to learn more about Delsie so you can get to know one of the many wonderful residents who calls Immanuel home.

Delsie was born on the Highline and was one of seven children in a Mennonite farming family.  She fondly remembers her childhood and her eyes light up as she recalls a time when she and her closest sister, Betty, fell down a snowy hill on their three-mile walk home from school.  Who pushed who is still a lively debate between the two.  After graduating from high school, Delsie moved to Glasgow.  While there, she met Bob, who had just been discharged from the army following World War II.  It was love at first sight and they married after a whirlwind two-week courtship!

Bob’s family was moving to the Flathead, and the newlyweds joined them.  At first, Delsie worked in a dress shop while Bob pumped gas.  As the years went on, they were blessed with three daughters and two sons.  Delsie ran a daycare in her home so she could bring in money while also caring for her own children.  During this time Delsie, who had always loved to draw, taught herself to paint.  Oil paint remains her favorite medium, though she’s worked in watercolors, too.  The 2017 Immanuel Lutheran Communities Christmas card featuring one of her paintings (shown above and below) is only the latest honor for her award-winning work.  Her room is decorated with examples of her artwork going back decades.

Delsie has had some hard times.  After 50 years of marriage, Bob passed away.  Since then two of her children have also passed, and another has developed serious health problems.  So when she had a stroke that made her unable to care for herself, Delsie came to Immanuel.  When asked what she likes best about Immanuel, Delsie says it has “the best people.”  She calls Keisha, her favorite CNA, “darling,” and says she’s “a lovely girl.”

Delsie’s story is unique, and every resident who lives at Immanuel has a unique story.  That’s why the Immanuel Foundation blog will regularly feature residents’ stories.  The sum total of wisdom and life experience housed at Immanuel Lutheran Communities is truly astonishing. At the Immanuel Foundation, I get to meet amazing seniors like Delsie and raise funds to make sure they keep getting the care they need, and I want you, too, to have a chance to meet some of the people your donations help.