Crochet Queen Still Plies Her Hook

October 14, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Under the window in Milhardy's kitchen stands a comfortable rocking chair, her favorite spot to crochet, snooze a little or just look outat the spreading maple tree in her yard.

Here the light is good enough for her to stitch the most intricate patterns, the most elaborate afghans, the most delicate doilies.

Her eyes aren't that strong any more, but her hand is still steady. At 75, Milhardy is making more afghans, vests and baby blankets than ever. She whiles away many afternoons rocking back and forth in her chair and crocheting a new pattern.

"I always did love making things," confessed Mildred Hardy, who was nicknamed "Milhardy" by the children in her neighborhood years ago. The name stuck even after her daughter and the rest of the gang had long grown up and moved away from Brooklyn Park.

Milhardy stayed behind in the airy, four-bedroomhome that was one of the only houses on Sixth Avenue in the 1940s. She kept crocheting afghans for every couch in her home and stitching baby blankets for the next generations.

She never expected to turninto a crochet master. When she was a child, Milhardy admired her mother's dainty work. But she couldn't get the hang of crocheting.

"My mom tried to teach me, but I was so dumb, I couldn't do a simple chain stitch," she recalled with a chuckle.

One day, after she had graduated from Glen Burnie High in 1932, Milhardy was browsing in a dime store when a little book caught her eye. It was "Learn How to Crochet," and it cost only 10 cents.

She took it home and practiced faithfully every night until she became as fast and skilled as her mother was with a crochet needle.

"I used to do a lot of real fine work," she said, pointing to a lace doily on a table in her living room. She walks across the room and picks up another doily, a soft, whitepiece with a snowflake design. Her mother made it, and Milhardy keeps it in a place of honor, under a picture of her husband taken when he was in the Navy.

Milhardy married Merril Hardy, a sweetheart from her high school days, in 1935. Times were rough, so she continued working as a bookkeeper until she had her daughter a decade later.

"We graduated during the Depression," Milhardy said. "We couldn't afford to go to college. I kept working off and on for a long time, but I wanted to make sure I had time for my daughter. I always loved kids."

She was a mother to much of the neighborhood while her daughter, Barbara Stang, now 45,was young. Barbara and the other girls used to come over to eat cookies and play with their dolls after school, Milhardy recalled.

As her daughter grew up and her husband helped found Brooklyn Park's volunteer fire company, Milhardy became well known in the community. She made afghans for fund-raising events at the school, the fire company and the family's church, Brooklyn Heights United Methodist Church. She's still active in the congregation and crochets baby blankets and vests every year for the annual bazaar in lateOctober.

Children throughout Brooklyn Park's older neighborhoods have grown up with Milhardy's afghans. She made many from her own patterns, piecing together her favorite designs.

The recreation association is selling $1 tickets and raffling off her afghan next week. Losers will have another chance to buy a Milhardy special Oct. 26, at her church's October Fest and Bazaar. She already has made stacks of sweaters, vests and blankets for the event.

"With one (type) of stitch, you can make so many things," she says, holding up a quilt in the door of her home, next to the Quezen Cherry tree her husband planted for her birthday years ago. "You can make a sweater or an afghan out of it. That's what I love about it -- the creativity."

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