Dorothy Kennedy says she learned how to sew, knit and crochet when she was 4 years old, and she hasn't stopped for 97 years.
Mrs. Kennedy, 101, a resident of North Hills Health & Rehabilitation Center in Pine, estimates that she has crocheted more than 1,000 caps for cancer patients.
"That's how I spent my life," she said.
Mrs. Kennedy is a native of Ambridge, a 1930 graduate of Ambridge High School a lifetime member of Ambridge United Presbyterian Church. She has been a widow for 47 years and has a son living in California. Another son has died.
She was an only child with six aunts and two grandmothers who taught her to sew, knit and crochet before she even entered school.
One of her parents' friends gave her a hand-cranked sewing machine, while another person gave her a pair of scissors.
"I was taught to do all the needlework, handwork around the age of 4," she said, adding that she knitted a sleeveless sweater for her favorite doll before she started school.
Before World War II, Mrs. Kennedy knitted 50 vests for soldiers, while her mother made 100 vests.
Then missionaries told her of the Guidepost Sweater Project and the need for sweaters for the overseas missions.
"I saw a picture of the dearest little girl -- I'll never forget that face -- and she was holding this little rose and singing 'God Bless America,' " she said. "... I sent right away for the directions."
She made 100 sweaters for the Guidepost project but stopped because the sweaters became too bulky to handle.
In 1938, she started to make caps for her church bazaar. "Something seemed to tell me to make cancer caps, and I think that voice came from God," she said.
A woman she spoke with at the American Cancer Society said she had not heard of caps for patients, but told Mrs. Kennedy to go ahead and "make your own pattern."
Mrs. Kennedy came to the Pine nursing home in 2010, after breaking her leg, arm and shoulder in a fall. Then she contracted what she calls a "mystery infection," followed by gallstones.
In her room, among photos of family members, is a framed postcard from President Barack and Michelle Obama, which she received for her 100th birthday.
She attributes her longevity to a life of not drinking, smoking or overeating.
"I've tried to live a good life, tried to do what is right," she said. "Plus, I've always gone to church, always believed in God."
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published March 21, 2013 9:30 AM