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Power of Our People

A Close-Knit Couple

Pedernales EC member, who once knitted gloves for Allied machine gunners in World War II, today crafts blankets for hospice patients

Althea and John Conrado, Pedernales Electric Cooperative members since 1975, are in their seventh decade of marriage, have seven children and have together explored all seven continents. But Althea’s luck seemed less certain in 1944, when the then 11-year-old raised the eyebrows and ire of a Red Cross worker.

The relief agency was at that time distributing yarn to volunteers to knit specialized gloves—with an open trigger finger—for Allied machine gunners overseas. Althea, who began knitting at age 5, wanted to contribute. But the aid worker she encountered pronounced her too young, to Althea’s deep disappointment. A phone call from her mother to the agency sorted it, and she returned. “I can still see her face,” Althea said. “She was so mad. And I came home with two big bags full of yarn!” She knitted the gloves, turned them in, then got some more yarn and kept knitting.

Though the product of Althea’s knitting has today changed to blankets for Austin hospice patients, her pace hasn’t slackened. She averages 1½ to two blankets per week, each taking about 40 hours to make. Again last year, Althea was recognized by Travis County with a Spirit of Service Award, which honors volunteers for 2,000 hours of work—though she racks up more than 3,000 hours knitting annually.

John marvels at his wife’s prolific output. “Some days it seems like they crank out of there faster, she’s doing pink and next thing you know it’s purple. What happened to the pink? It’s purple!”