Oella Norman was about 16 when she started crocheting. She was pregnant and decided to make some baby outfits for her coming child.
The nice thing about crocheting is that once you know how to do it, you dont seem to forget. Norman kept crocheting, making blankets, pillows, all kinds of stuff.
A few years ago, Norman, originally from central Indiana, had lived in Fort Wayne and later moved to Colorado, returned to Fort Wayne and was persuaded by some acquaintances to make a little money by selling the towels and potholders she made.
They were pretty good, after all. Norman had nearly a century of practice to get crocheting down pat.
So today, as her 103rd birthday approaches, when she isnt walking on her treadmill, Norman crochets for hours every day. A handful of caregivers keep their eyes open for good deals on yarn and take her to different shops to buy the materials she needs. Then they sell Normans towels and potholders on the side for her.
One even produced special labels for Normans work. They say, Hello. My name is Oella. I am 103 years young. Please enjoy my hand-crocheted towels!
Lets make it perfectly clear, though, Norman isnt raking in big bucks on her handiwork. She sells two towels for $5 and potholders go two for $7. She makes about enough money to cover the cost of the materials needed to stay busy six to eight hours a day, crocheting more items.
I crochet every day, Norman says. I stay up late, and if Im not sleepy I just sit and crochet.
One of Normans caregivers, Lauraine Baxter, will go to Walmart and buy 15 towels at a time. Norman will then cut them in half, creating 30 towels, hem the edges in one day and start putting crocheted ends on them so they can be hung on a hook.
When Im buying towels theyll ask me why Im buying so many, Baxter said. Ill tell them Im buying them for a woman who is 103 who crochets them, and theyll just look at me.
One of Normans caregivers had an idea for generating a little publicity for Normans handiwork. Her brother, James Walchle, is a movie producer in Los Angeles and Atlanta, and he knows a honcho with Comcast who knows Oprah Winfrey.
So why not use these little connections to get a handful of towels to Oprah?
Apparently the towels have been delivered, but theres been no word from Oprah.
Walchle said he buys a lot of Normans towels and gives them away to people.
Her handiwork is touching a lot of people, Walchle said, adding that the story is inspirational.
Norman, though, isnt looking to see her little crocheted towel hobby go big time.
Id rather give them away than sell them, she said, and she does give a lot away.
Besides, she said. Im 103. Im not going to live that much longer.
Her grandson, Brian Stier, isnt so sure about that.
We had that same conversation when she was in her 90s, Stier said.