Expressions of love

Area woman knits hats for newborns

Babies born at UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center get a warm welcome in many ways, and local woman, Eva Roles, is topping it off with little hats for the newborns. She recently sent 52 colorful crocheted baby hats to the facility.

“My nephew, Danny Smith, who works at the hospital, knew I loved making the little hats, so he helped arrange for me to crochet them for the newborns,” Roles said.

The crocheting began when she took a tragedy — the death of a child — and found a way to transform her sorrow into expressions of love.

Roles and her husband, Robert, were raising their four children in Williamsport, when their 4-year-old daughter, Wendy, was killed in an accident. “We were so sad, so depressed, for a long time,” she said. But grace was coming. Three years later, their oldest daughter, Cindy, gave birth to their first grandchild, Amanda.

“I was so happy, so comforted; she really helped us heal,” Roles said.

She recalled the feeling of just having to do something to outwardly express her gratitude, so she crocheted a hat and blanket for baby Amanda.

“Soon other people started to ask me to crochet for this baby or that one, and I was glad to do it,” she said. Roles eventually made hats and blankets for each of her seven grandchildren and her nine great-grandchildren — and for many other babies along the way.

Roles, a native of Williamsport, is one of 13 children. She recalls having lots of fun as a family, often taking camping and fishing tips to Rose Valley and skating at the Armory in the winter. She said her mother and father were good people.

“Mom saw to it that we all looked after each other and were always in church. She was very strict, though. She thought that just about everything was a sin — no movies, no dancing — and we listened to her. But we did do that stuff later,” she confessed.

Her father worked at Darling Valve, making fire hydrants. “Mom would take us down there to see him; he’d come out all covered in black iron residue and we couldn’t even recognize him. He always had a pack of Necco wafers ready to give to each of us kids,” she said.

Roles said she and Robert raised their children in the church, seeing that they attended every week. “They were, and still are, good children. I’m very proud of all of them — and of their husbands and my daughter-in-law,” she said.

Cindy and Robert Jr. live in Montoursville with their families, and Betty and family live in Wysox, Bradford County. Robert and his wife, Marlee, own Hoopla’s outside the Lycoming Mall.

Of her grandchildren, Roles said, “I wish I could take them back in time, to grow up like I did. It was so much simpler.” She expressed love and pride in all of them.

Robert Sr. became ill nearly four years ago, and moved into Valley View Nursing Center, Montoursville. Roles, with her own health problems, moved there the following year. They were able to share a room until Robert’s death in March.

“We had a good life together,” Roles said. “We always loved each other and we had no regrets. We lived a life in faith and I still pray every night.”

Roles continues to live at Valley View. She is a diabetic, and a portion of her calf and lymph nodes were removed because of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

“My children all offered to have me live with them after Robert died, but I’m content here,” Roles said. “And they have their own lives to live and enjoy.”

She praises everyone at Valley View, saying that the staff is loving and always helping the residents in any way they can — especially Karen Knoch, director of therapeutic recreation, who she says is ” … wonderful. She arranges so many activities for us, checks on us and makes sure we always know what’s going on.”

Some of those activities include “Memory Joggers,” Bible studies, thinking skills, Bingo, “Movin’/Grovin,” player piano/singing and trivia.

“Some staff and volunteers took us to the opening Little League game … volunteers met us there and they were so great to us, also,” she said.

The residents are taken shopping and fishing, with the help of volunteers. One volunteer drives his truck loaded with the fishing gear, beach chairs and wheel chairs. “I just can’t say enough about how good everyone is to us,” Roles said.

One item Roles never has to shop for is yarn. Her daughter Cindy brings her skeins of it, as do many of the staff at Valley View, especially Sue Fry and Patti Toner.

Roles is one of five members of the PEER (Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Resident) program at Valley View. Many area facilities that offer long-term care to residents have their own PEER group. They work in cooperation with the Lycoming/Clinton Bi-County Office on Aging to advocate for themselves and others to improve their quality of life. “If residents have problems here that haven’t been resolved, they come to the group to ask for help. We sometimes need to get resolution through other sources,” Roles said.

Roles has been voted by the group members as Outstanding PEER for 2017. She received a plaque and attended a special banquet with other members of the program.

A sister, Mary Smith, also is a resident, and Roles frequently spends time in that wing visiting. “Louella Holmes, our 84-year-old sister, lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and guess what she does?” Roles asked. “Teaches ballroom dancing!”

Roles says she’s very happy at Valley View. “I’ve made so many friends here,” she said. “I go to the classes, I can go outside to the lovely garden area, my family comes to visit, I love crocheting for the babies and I have my faith. I’m blessed.”