Mrs. Leola's Love: Beloved volunteer crochets for Yazoo

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

The art of crochet is a skill that is often passed down from generation to generation as the years go by. It is a craft most commonly enjoyed by elderly persons who use it to pass the time.  Yazoo City's most beloved centenarian Mrs. Leola Dillard is no exception, having spent most of her adult life making crochet projects for her children, grandchildren, and close friends.

At the young age of 107 years old, Mrs. Dillard is famous around town for her generous heart, and for spreading the love of Christ to everyone she meets.

Having lost her mobility several years ago, Mrs. Dillard can most often be found sitting in her comfortable lift chair in the living room of her Grand Avenue home, working on her most recent crochet project, surrounded by her family members, friends and daily visitors.

"She has used this craft to occupy her time and keep her mind, spirit, and body thriving over the years, since she has not been able to get up and move around," said Dillard's daughter, Margaret McGlown from Clarksdale.

Mrs. Dillard originally learned the art of crochet as a young adult when her children were growing up, and often spent a great deal of her time working on crochet projects with her dear friend Alice Hill. Together the twosome would often show off their work, or put them out on display for others to view and enjoy their craftsmanship.

Over the years, Mrs. Dillard has completed hundreds of projects for her loved ones, ranging from bedspreads and blankets to clothing, potholders and trivets, small home decorations like butterfly magnets, and even booties to warm a person's feet.

"Many of the booties she has made have been given to sick people, or people who are in the hospital or the nursing home," McGlown said. "Some people use them, but most people just keep them for show because she made them."

As Mrs. Dillard has grown older, her eyesight is beginning to fade, but she continues to do the craft that she loves, often with yarn that has been donated to her.

"I like the bright colors because I can see it better," she said. "I make mistakes sometimes though, or I may make one shoe bigger than the other."

Not only is the art of crochet keeping Mrs. Dillard's mind sharper than ever, but also it serves as a method to reach out and share God's word with everyone she meets.

Mrs. Dillard often welcomes visitors into her home during the afternoon hours, according to her daily routine, and people are often very privileged to hear her share her "Dream Poem" or discuss the Fruits of the Spirit.

"She is so encouraging," McGlown said. "She still has a lot of wisdom and encourages people to have a dream and get up and do something.  I think this is what has kept her mind so vital and so sharp."

Because Mrs. Dillard has put so much love and effort into her crochet projects, she and her children have decided to display the family collection at Ricks Memorial Library until the end of the month for the public to view and enjoy.

In the meantime, Mrs. Dillard and her family look forward to February 6, when the matriarch will celebrate her 108th birthday.

"Life is about love, and love is meant to be shared," McGlown said. "And we can share that love in so many different ways."