Ninety-four-year-old Thelma Edge Pugh has worked with yarn nearly all of her life. As a young girl, she was taught by her mother to crochet, a hobby that she has enjoyed since.
Pugh is very well- known for making baby booties as gifts to new mothers, a tradition that started over 30 years ago when Pugh crocheted her very first pair of baby booties for her first grandson,
John David Moore. The pattern to those baby booties has long been discarded. For over two decades, Pugh has stitched the tiny booties from memory. Any booties that she has gifted are certainly unique, handmade treasures.
Pugh and her husband, John Marion Pugh were married in 1943 and lived in the Allen community where they raised eight children. John Marion Pugh died of brain cancer in 1942. Following his death, Thelma Pugh worked outside of the home at the original Vanity Fair in downtown Jackson. When the textile manufacturing company moved its location to highway 43, Pugh continued her work with the company until she retired in February 1987 at the age of 62.
After retirement, Pugh began keeping children in her home. She enjoyed the activity and conversation with the children and she continued to crochet. Several of Pugh’s charges even learned to crochet at young ages. “If they would sit still, I could teach them,” Pugh recalls. Teaching the handicraft to multiple generations has been one of the great delights of Pugh’s life. She taught two of her daughters, several of the children she kept, and some of her contemporaries through the years.
Pugh was a member of the North Allen Homemaker’s Club for many years. This club is still active in the Allen community and is known throughout the region for their focus on handicrafts, such as crocheting and knitting. The club supplies the neonatal ICU (NICU) at University of South Alabama Women’s and Children’s Hospital with crocheted “snakes” for the preemies to wear to help maintain their body temperatures. They also make caps and blankets for the tiny patients.
Until her health prevented her presence at club meetings, Thelma Pugh was an active participant. When continued health issues forced Pugh’s relocation into Jackson Healthcare Facility, she chose to embrace her setting, build friendships, and teach yarn crafts to those willing to learn. Participants in JHF’s knitting club range from curious teens willing to learn something new to seasoned handcrafters who look forward to the fellowship of the club and the accomplishment of the finished projects.
When Pugh moved into Jackson Healthcare Facility in February of this year and started the knitting club, members of her home church, Tompkins Baptist in Grove Hill kept up with her progress through her daughter Alice’s Facebook posts. Music minister Paul Williams remarked, “Mrs. Thelma is surely blooming where she is planted.” That comment has resounded with Pugh’s family throughout her many health scares. At 94, she still invests in people wherever she finds herself.
On Thursday, July 5, the knitting club at Jackson Healthcare Facility met for the first time since early June when the originator, Thelma Pugh, suffered a stroke. Pugh smiled as she entered the familiar room, with her yarn bag on her lap. She looked at each member of the club and smiled, paying close attention to the projects that each person was working on. Sensing Pugh’s emotion, fellow resident Mary Whitfield encouraged her friend to get out her needles.
“I tried to crochet last night and I just got frustrated. I don’t know if I ever will again.” A chorus of ladies answered, “Yes, you will!”
Pugh took a deep breath and smiled as she pulled her project from her bag and began to examine her own stitches.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.