Close-knit family helping newborns keep warm
Lydia Caletti and her siblings expected home-made gifts for their birthdays and Christmas.
There were four children in the family and their mother, Jane Kloetzli, was an avid knitter.
Even when there wasn’t an occasion she kept her yarn and needles busy, making clothes for people in need.
“Mom’s been knitting, crocheting, handwork, needlework, quilting — anything you can name, since she was about seven or eight,” Mrs Caletti said.
“She’ll sew lap robes, wheelchair bags, blankets, hats, preemie hats, jackets; she’ll get second-hand dolls, clean them up, dress them up, make an outfit for them.”
For the last five years, the Florida resident has sent her work here, where her daughter is a resident. She started with chemo hats for Pals and baby jackets; hats for babies proved a bigger hit, especially in the Maternity Ward at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
Mrs Caletti said her mother prefers not to be noticed for her contributions.
“If she knows of a family in need, she’ll just make an anonymous Santa Claus visit or she’ll give it to somebody to give to another,” she said.
“She’s not in the forefront. She lives in a seniors’ neighbourhood. When people get sick, she makes quilts for them. It’s just her way of sharing the love with other people. She can’t be there to give you a hug so this is her way of putting her arms around you.”
The 87-year-old easily churns out a few items a day.
“She does it at her own pace — which is fast,” her daughter said.
“She knits, sews, quilts or does some kind of needlework every day. Her room is stockpiled with materials and yarn.
“It keeps her very busy. She’s done more than 10,000 sweaters and items easily but she’s never kept a real track of it. When she was here, she’d make at least one jacket a day or two baby hats.”
She has visited the island several times, planting herself in her daughter’s sun room which overlooks the South Shore.
A cross-stitched plaque reads: “Jane’s Room — The Best Seat in the House”.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mrs Kloetzli worked in the cosmetics department of the May Department Stores Company, and the telephone company.
When she married, she started working at the family restaurant, Werner’s, a landmark on historical tours of Baltimore.
Stainless steel, black Formica countertops, wood-panelled walls and etched mirrors keep the restaurant looking the same today as it did in the 1950s.
“All of the children worked there. I was there 20 years before taking a job elsewhere,” Mrs Caletti said.
The family sold the business and Mrs Kloetzli retired to Florida, where she began knitting full-time.
“There is a tremendous need here and they’re appreciative,” Mrs Caletti said. “Bermuda is a very giving country.
“I think it’s because it’s a smaller community and you see people that need help, so you offer it. You do what you can. You pull together. You cut yourself short one or two weeks out of the year — so what? This other person needs it more than you do.”
She said she inherited the giving spirit from her mother.
“One of these days, I’ll do what mom’s doing, as soon as life slows down,” she said. “She’s always thinking, always planning. It keeps her young and active and that’s all good.
“She doesn’t look for much recognition, she just wants to do it out of the goodness of her heart. She’s a good lady and the best mom. She’s very caring and loving.”
The handwork keeps her mother “ticking”, she believes.
“She’s on her third pacemaker. I told her, ‘I’ve bought you 25 years’ worth of batteries and you’ve only used eight. We’ve still got a lot of battery time left, so let’s keep going’.”
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