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Hats off to Lucille

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Lucille Woolridge wouldn't go to the grocery store without a hat on her head.

The 86-year-old is mad about hats and has a collection of more than 100, many of them made by her own hand out of natural materials.

“The first hat I made was when I was 12 years old in school,” she said. “It was for one of Reggie Ming's hat shows in Devonshire.

“Hilda Harford showed me how to make a hat and I have been making hats ever since. I made that first hat out of yellow flowers. I was so excited when I won.”

Over the years she has won many more prizes for her hats, most recently at a Peace Lutheran Church senior's luncheon earlier this month.

“I got first prize there,” she said. “I made that hat out of crotons, dry leaves and palm leaves. Sometimes it can take me all day to make a hat, but it depends on how I design it.”

She said making hats is not an inexpensive hobby as she buys many of her materials from local florists.

“You really have to love doing it,” she said.

To her, the appeal is the joy hats bring to others.

“When you look at a hat it takes away your problems,” she said. “Every Easter I lend about 25 hats to the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute for their Easter parade.

“I have also made them for primary school students so they could have a hat show and raise money for their school.”

But she has never made a hat for profit. She grew up on Devon Springs Road in Devonshire near what is now MWI.

She said the area was very neighbourly.

“We used to eat out of one another's pots,” she laughed. “The late Fernance Perry lived next door to us. We had a nice neighbourhood. It is still nice over there but a lot more crowded.”

She was the second oldest of ten children. Her father, Thomas Eve drove a horse and carriage and farmed. When she was 13, he broke his leg and couldn't work anymore.

Her mother, Mary, found a job working at the nearby leprosarium, cooking for eight leprosy patients. That meant Mrs Woolridge had to leave school to care for her younger siblings.

“I wasn't upset about leaving school,” she said. “I was getting so tired. I had a lot of chores to do around the family farm before I could go to school in the morning.”

She had to collect laundry, get eggs from the chicken coop, and clean the horse stables, among other things.

“By the time I got to school I'd be late,” she said. “I always got licks from the headmaster, so I just felt I was getting licks everywhere, at home and at school.”

She took care of her siblings until she married at 17 and had two daughters.

The marriage didn't work out, and she divorced at 20. She and her children moved in with her mother.

Looking for somewhere to live, she decided to build her own house on land given to her by her mother. She drew up her own plans and submitted them to the planning department.

“Planning laughed when they saw my plans,” said Mrs Woolridge.

But officials took pity on her saying: “if she wants to build a house, let her”. At the time, Mrs Woolridge was working on the base, cleaning houses.

“Every time I had a little money I'd buy stone and put it aside,” she said. “Then when I had everything together I started building.

“I told everyone I was a contractor. I worked with a mason called Chicken Simons. I would make the mortar and he would do the mason work.”

She was proud as punch when she and her children moved into the house. “It had three bedrooms, a living room and kitchen,” she said.

Her son now lives there.

She married her second husband, Victor Woolridge, in 1969. They met at a funeral.

“We were very happy for 46 years,” said Mrs Woolridge. “He died eight years ago.”

Mr Woolridge was one of Bermuda's first taxi drivers. He introduced Mrs Woolridge to it and she drove for twenty years as a tour guide. She often brought visitors home to show them how Bermudians live and to give them a taste of local cuisine. As a result, many of her clients became good friends.

“There was one man who brought me a red hat every time he visited Bermuda,” she said. “In the end I had 16 red hats from him before he died.

“He and his family ran a stained glass factory in Canada. I went up to visit his factory, once.

“It was closed at the time but he called in all the staff and security guards so that I could shop in his store.

“Unfortunately, everything was very expensive so all I could afford was an $8 notebook, but everyone was very nice.”

She won several awards for her hospitality including a Visitor Industry Partnership award in 1999.

Many of her taxi clients became good friends.

She has four children Julie, Oliver and Ricky Darrell and Victoria Weeks, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

• Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior's full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.

In style: Lucille Woolridge, 86, adores hats and has a collection of more than 100 (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Treasured gifts: Lucille Woolridge wearing one of the 16 red hats given to her by one of her taxi clients (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Using her head: Lucille Woolridge has been making hats since her school days (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Fashion forward: Lucille Woolridge and daughter Victoria wearing her hand-crafted hats in 1970 (Photograph supplied)
Looking good: Lucille Woolridge wearing a hat made by another Bermudian, Frances Burch (Photograph supplied)
Popular present: Lucille Woolridge wearing one of the hats given to her by one of her taxi customers (Photograph supplied)

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Published August 23, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 23, 2016 at 7:28 am)

Hats off to Lucille

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