Hometown Hero: For Bow senior, quilting makes quite a difference to others


Monitor staff

Published: 09-05-2023 4:54 PM

Barbara Hays trained employees at a telephone and communications company for decades.

These days, at age 80, the Bow resident is still involved in communications, but she no longer needs to say anything to anybody.

Her quilts say it all.

“Barbara has been making lap quilts to donate to Concord Hospital for a number of years,” her sister, Dory Rooker, wrote in the nominating application for the Monitor’s Hometown Hero series. “Recently, she learned about fidget quilts, which are small quilts, especially for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental conditions. These quilts provide gadgets and texture that engage them kinesthetically.”

 The fidget quilts include zippers and beads, accessories that distract patients from pulling on safety measures, like an IV tube. Hays has been quilting for others for about 15 years, and she describes the process in simple terms:

“A carpenter takes a big piece of wood and cuts it into small pieces and puts them together to make a bigger thing, like a table,” Hays said. “I take small pieces of fabric and cut them into smaller pieces to make quilts.”

Her finished products are delivered to Concord Hospital, the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton and the Veterans Affairs in Manchester.

She makes her quilts in her home in Bow, where she lives with Rooker. She learned the skill from a co-worker from Deering and accompanied her to Concord Hospital to deliver them.

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“She had been doing it for years,” Hays said, “I helped her and that’s how I got the fever.”

Hays, a Minnesota native who’s lived in the Granite State for more than 20 years, says a friend, Lisa Belanger of Washington, NH, helps her make the quilts. Hays estimates that she’s made approximately 100 quilts in her life. She recently had a stack of them, about 15, that had to be patient before moving into needy hands.

She’s got another 15 or so in her home, waiting to be delivered to their new home.

“We just pick a day,” Hays said. “and then we go to the hospital.”

Hays makes two kinds of quilts: the fidget kind measures about 12-by-18 inches and includes little gadgets to keep dementia patients at least somewhat occupied. They take about 1½ hours to finish.

Her larger quilts, called lap quilts, measure 45-by-45 inches and can take as long as four hours to complete.

Hays drops off her work and doesn’t see the reactions of those who receive them.

“I don’t see patients getting them,” Hays said, “but it’s not finished until you put your name on it. I’ve gotten letters thanking me.”

And she’s not always satisfied with her finished product.

“Sometimes I’ll say, ‘Ew,’ ” Hays said. “Sometimes I might not like this or that or how certain colors look. But I think that somebody somewhere might like it.”