A stitch in time, for a good cause

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Given undivided attention, Lillian Scanlon lets the stories flow easily. A lifelong resident of Southampton, the 83-year-old has many memories to share, even as she embarks on new projects that will add to the list.

Mostly confined to the house because of a nagging back problem that was likely the result of a bout with polio, Mrs. Scanlon passes a good part of her day stitching together lap blankets for wheelchair-bound veterans living at the Veterans Administration hospital in Northport. In her cozy room in the house which belongs to her son and daughter-in-law in North Sea, Mrs. Scanlon, trim and wearing a vibrant fuchsia sweater, sits in a comfortable chair surrounded by colorful skeins of yarn, most of it given to her by friends who know about her passion. Reminiscences of her life are woven into the conversation about the blankets she is making.

Between trips down memory lane about how the Reverend Hawke officiated at her marriage to Eugene Scanlon while she lay on a gurney in the hospital awaiting surgery for appendicitis, and that she had worked at Hildreth’s Department Store through four generations of Hildreths, Mrs. Scanlon explains that she started making the lap blankets about six months ago when her longtime friend and classmate at Southampton High School, Mary Korte, discovered a pile of yarn left over from the old days of rummage sales at the church. Mrs. Korte gave her the yarn, and since, as Mrs. Scanlon pointed out, she “grew up in a different time, when you didn’t throw things away,” she eagerly accepted it. She began to make hats, scarves, afghans and even a few sweaters. Nothing goes to waste, said Mrs. Scanlon, and even the smallest scrap of yarn gets stitched up.

It was her son, Gene, with whom she lives, who suggested to his mother that she make the blankets for veterans. Actively involved with the Southampton Elks, an organization that as part of its mission supports the VA hospital, Mr. Scanlon sought ways to keep his mother occupied when she moved in with him and his wife, Diane, about six months ago. The handmade blankets for veterans seemed a natural fit. Mrs. Scanlon had been to the VA hospital, although probably not in the last 40 years, said her son, and she had seen the veterans who were once robust soldiers now frail.

“It was self-preservation,” said Mr. Scanlon. “She was always knitting mittens and hats and giving them to people,” he said, and even if they really didn’t have a need for them, they politely accepted. Crocheting the blankets keeps her busy with a craft she loves and allows her to help people, which has been huge motivator throughout her life.

Made up of 45 “granny” squares that are later stitched together, each blanket is comprised of a several colors. Mrs. Scanlon proudly pointed to the 50th blanket she’s completed, and close by are the first few completed squares of the 51st blanket already piling up on her dresser.

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