BUSY HANDS ARE HAPPY HANDS — Phyllis Hanson keeps busy knitting baby caps, which she donates. (Star Eagle photo by Kathy Paulsen)
By KATHY PAULSEN
There are those who say they are retired, but that doesn't always coincide with their personality.
Phyllis Hanson, formerly of Clarks Grove, now lives at Bancroft Creek Estates in rural Albert Lea. She has always been active in whatever she does, and she is willing to try anything.
Phyllis was a volunteer with the Naeve Hospital Candy Stripers and hospital auxiliary for many years. When it came time to scale back a bit, she wanted to find something to fill her time and still feel useful.
As a rule, the hats provided for hospital infants, if purchased, are made of tight polyester, complete with seams and tags. Phyllis decided however that a more loving and nurturing way to meet this need was to put her knitting skills to good use for the wee ones who would be making their grand entrances into the world.
She knows the formula by heart: using a No. 6 knitting needle, she casts on 50 stitches. Then she knits two rows, purls two rows, all the way across, several times to make the ribbing for a new baby cap. Then she turns it over and purls a row, knits the second row, purls a row, then knits, etc.
Phyllis donates these special creations to Albert Lea Medical Center and the nursery staff gives one to each of the babies born.
The first year she started, in 2000, Phyllis made about 50 baby caps, and gradually increased that number until reaching 200 in 2010, 2011 and 2012. She has already knitted 80 caps for 2013.
In all, Phyllis has made more than 1500 hats. To put it another way, that's almost the population of Ellendale, Geneva, Hartland and Manchester combined.
Along with baby caps, she has also made an afghan for every one of her six children, and every one of her 15 grandchildren, as well as one for each of her 29 great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren. Phyllis has two more to make, as she has two more great grandchildren on the way.
Phyllis says, "It makes me feel good to think that I am able to doing something for someone else."
Phyllis was always one who had to be busy and held many different jobs before she got married, working at Montgomery Wards, the "dime store," Woolworth’s and Gambles. Later, she waited tables as well as worked at Pete and Rube’s Market in Ellendale and helped with a large number of things on the farm southwest of Ellendale her family lived on when she married Paul "Bud" Hanson.
Knitting and giving baby caps to young ones is not a new feature for Phyllis in regards to helping others. Phyllis did her best to help other young people many years ago.
She wrote to a lot of servicemen during World War II. She wrote to neighbor boys, cousins, as well as to some who were friends of the ones that she was writing to.
Back in 1944, Phyllis was writing to 44 servicemen. Phyllis has always enjoyed music and liked to dance. In fact, that is where she met her husband. Over the years, she accompanied Paul to many of his softball games. Phyllis has always been a gregarious person, never shy about meeting others.
Phyllis drove school bus for about 10 years, more for the enjoyment of meeting the kids and their parents than for the money. She took a secretarial class at the ALTEC vocational school in Albert Lea and worked in the superintendent’s office for her internship. She was a 4-H leader for many years, a member of the Naeve Hospital Auxiliary, and led the Candy Stripers program for several years.
She and her husband were members of the Minnesota Flying Farmers and she was a Teen Leader. Phyllis was named Woman of the Year for MN Flying Farmers in 1980 and was elected Queen of the Minnesota Flying Farmers in 1984. Both Phyllis and Paul served as editors of the Minnesota Flying Farmers newsletter.
Phyllis and Paul were members of the Elks Lodge in Albert Lea and were editors of their newsletter. When Paul became the Minnesota Elks State President, they set and accomplished their goal of visiting every Elks Lodge in the state, and also attended national conventions.
Phyllis later taught 55 Alive/Mature Driving Classes, and helped get the Clarks Grove Heritage Society organized. Through senior college courses, Phyllis has kept on learning — not to land a job, but for the sheer joy of learning. She uses her computer to keep in touch with family and friends.
Th upcoming election has spawned a debate on the role of women. Should they be wives and mothers? Independent business executives?
Increasingly, women are members of the working trades: heavy equipment operators, construction workers — trades formerly dominated by men. Women can be what they want to be, and Phyllis is an example. She has done so many things, and had so many roles both in and out of the house. She never believed there was anything women couldn't do. She always found a way to do whatever she set her sights upon, but other people came before her own aspirations.
What spurred her interest in creating baby caps for others? Perhaps it is the following touching story: when Phyllis was expecting her sixth child, Teri, her youngest son, Bob, said, "Mom, are you gonna have a baby?"
She replied, "Yes.”
He then asked, "You gonna rock the baby?"
And she said, "Yes.”
Bob then said, "Would you like to practice on me?"
She hugged him and said, "I sure would."