2012-06-14 / Local & State

96-Year-Old Knitter Still Clicking Along

By Andrea Rich

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (AP) – When Orpha Querry tells you she never thought it would come to this, she sounds surprised.

About 8 years ago her eyesight failed her enough that she couldn’t knit like she used to – a skill she’d been refining since she was 11 years old. Not one to give up, the Menno Haven resident started knitting baby hats – little caps with a ribbed edge and a pom-pom at the top.

“Now because I lost my eyesight, mostly, it’s the only thing easy enough to do,” she explained.

It doesn’t take much yarn and she can make them quickly. That’s how she averages 25 baby hats a week, and primarily donates them to Chambersburg Hospital. A friend delivers them for her.

She’s kept count, and seems surprised at herself when she shares the number: 3,150 hats, so far.

Querry will turn 97 years old on July 1. She grew up in Mapleton in Huntington County, the fifth child of 10, with four sisters and five brothers. Her aunt taught her to knit when she was 11, and Querry later taught her four sisters.

“When I started to knit we didn't have yarn,” Querry explained. “We saved the cord string from packages bought at the store. We didn’t have needles either. You won’t know what these are,” she says with a chuckle, “but we used 20-penny spikes – two big nails – for needles.”

She later got wooden knitting needles, and “then they started making these metal round needles,” she said, showing off her circular knitting needles that help her turn Red Heart brand yarn in baby hats.

When friends realized how devoted Querry was to producing the hats, they started giving her bags of yarn with their odds and ends left over from their finished projects.

“I had all kinds and col ors,” she said.

When that ran out, she’d buy her own, first waiting for the yarn to go on sale, then getting five or six skeins at a time – “That will do me about six months.”

In addition to her donations, Querry has handed out baby hats to her many friends when they learn of a new grandchild or great-grandchild on the way. In her Penn Hall and Menno Haven social circle, there’s always a grandparent or great-grandparent to be, it seems.

In addition to her high-intensity knitting, Querry enjoys reading “anything” she says (she just finished To Kill A Mockingbird and went for something lighter by starting an Erma Bombeck book after that) and “entertaining.”

“I love to entertain – and I have many, many friends!” she said, between her neighbors and women she knows from Park Avenue United Methodist Church. She attending Park Avenue Church regularly until a few years ago when a fall changed how easily she got around, and she relocated from a cottage at Menno Haven to Penn Hall.

Querry has lived in Chambersburg for 58 years, after moving around with her late husband, Robert V. Querry, who was a banker. They’d lived outside Philadelphia, in Shippensburg and in Three Springs. Orpha and Robert had grown up together (he was one year older), and were married 61 years before he passed away at the age of 79.

They had three children, two boys and a girl (one son and the daughter are deceased). There are five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren that Orpha enjoys, most of them within 50 miles of her home.

After Robert’s retirement the two traveled, seeing every state but Alaska – and most of those by car, sleeping in a tent. They continued to camp as a couple long after their kids had grown out of weekend camping trips to Cowan's Gap, Orpha said.

The travel and the tent camping may be a thing of the past, but Querry hasn't had to give up some of her life-long joys. She may no longer knit coats, suits and gloves, but the baby hats still come off the needles fairly quickly.

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