Nonagenarian Woman Crafts Artistic Blooms From Beads

By Zac Schultz | December 22, 2017


If it’s Monday, Velma Cox and her friends must be playing Rummikub. At 96 years old, Velma has a busier social calendar than most people half her age. “I played dominoes this morning and usually this time of the afternoon we play Skip-bo and Rummikub.”

On another day, she might fit in some Wii bowling, after all, she does hold the high score for her senior living community. “I play games, at least three times a week and we just play half a day so the other half a day I have to find something else to do.”

In her remaining spare time, Velma makes art with beads so small, she can fit dozens into a single flower petal. Velma can make one blossom a day.

Over time she has made 30 bouquets, and given them all away. “I make little animals and I make flowers and it was just fun and I’d give it to my friends so I could make some more ’cause it piled up a little bit. If I make some I couldn’t make any more unless I got rid of them. So I had to start giving them away.”

Her friends all sport brooches and hair clips with Velma’s bead flowers. “I enjoy making them. And it spends my time. I have a lot of extra time.”

That extra time is how Velma came here and started making bead flowers in the first place. In 2006, her husband Robert became so ill from diabetes Velma could no longer take care of him. Their daughter Arlene moved them to the Felician Village in Manitowoc.

Velma was in her apartment and Robert was in the nursing home wing. “I went to see him when he was in (the nursing home) every day. It got so bad, I had to feed him his meals.”

Robert passed away three years later. “Oh, after my husband died, I had to find something to pass the time because time was heavy on my hands. Because before I always went to be with him in the day time.”

Velma’s children tried to help her find a hobby to fill the empty hours. “My daughter-in-law bought me a bead book. I kept at it until I just enjoyed it so much.”

It gave her something to focus on during the long afternoons. “I’m only thinking of my beads. I’m not thinking about nothing else.”

Robert never lived in this apartment, but his memory is all over, from photos on the wall to a candle holder on the counter. “I met him on a roller skating rink. That’s a long time ago.”

They were married in 1941.  “We farmed 30 years.” They raised three children, and Velma uses email and Skype to keep in touch. “I send a message to my daughter every morning; tell her I’m up out of bed so she knows that I’m still alive.”

Even with all the games and talking with family, there are still a lot of hours left in the day, and Velma says working with beads and making art can be therapeutic. It’s even better when she can share the results with her friends. “What good would it do me to just let them pile up. So that’s why I give them away.”

Zac Schultz

Zac Schultz is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who thinks three-minute stories and one-line bio descriptions are woefully brief.

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