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90-year-old Willmar woman crochets caps for preemies

Marjorie Sordahl, 90, of Willmar, crochets every day at Rice Care Center. She has crocheted about 100 hats every year for the last 15 years for premature babies born at St. Cloud Hospital. She started the project when her twin great-grandchildren were born there 16 years ago. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

Ever since her twin great-grandchildren were born prematurely, Marjorie Sordahl has spent nearly every day doing something to help other preemies.

Using donated yarn, Sordahl crochets soft stocking caps. Some are so tiny they would barely cover a walnut.

The hats are given to premature babies born at St. Cloud Hospital, where her great-grandchildren were born 16 years ago.

"The twins were just so little," she said. "I wanted to give something back to the hospital," said Sordahl, who will be 91 next month.

Now a resident at Rice Care Center in Willmar, Sordahl has crocheted 75 to 150 hats every year for the last 15 years.

She finished 100 caps last year and had hoped to do the same this year. But with her eyesight failing, a taxing battle with cancer and dependence on an oxygen tank, Sordahl has set her goal at 50 hats this year. She's halfway to meeting that goal.

She keeps a yarn bag at her side and her hands are always busy crocheting -- nearly every day. "If you don't do something, you feel like you wasted it," she said.

A drawer in her bedside cabinet is filled with caps that are finished, except for the tassel. She's also crocheting an afghan for one of her six children and making colorful hair binders for great-granddaughters.

But Sordahl seems driven to meet her goal of making caps for little babies who have a tough start to life.

"She has a lot more caps to make," said Sordahl's daughter, Betty Cole of Willmar.

Cole has made a scrapbook of thank you cards and photos of infants wearing the stocking caps made by Sordahl. Families who have received one of her hats are always so appreciative, said Cole.

Sordahl pooh-poohs any praise directed her way. She said her church, Crow River Lutheran of rural Belgrade, and the Joy Circle there of which that she and Betty are members, "are supposed to take credit for the hats, not me."

She vows, with a smile, that she'll get even with her friend who called the West Central Tribune and suggested a story be done about her.

There is more to Sordahl's story. Her own childhood wasn't easy. When she was 16, her mother died, leaving Sordahl to raise two young siblings.

Before her death, her mother worked in New London as a milliner. She was a hat maker.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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