Destin woman uses her hobby to keep babies and vets warm, one cap at a time

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

She might be up in years, but Betty Marler is still using her talents to help others. 

Marler, 88, has been crocheting since she was 12. Today, she crochets caps and gives them to hospitals for premature babies and veterans. 

"I learned the old-fashioned way with little thin thread,” Marler said, noting that her aunt taught her “the chain” first. 

Since then she has made many things, from afghans to pot holders to coasters and dish rags. 

However, for the past 10 years or so she has been making caps for babies and veterans. 

“I gave up on the afghans a long time ago. …  It takes too long to make them,” she said with a laugh. 

Betty Marler, 88, says sitting in her chair crocheting helps her to relax.

Marler said she started out making the big caps, which she says was “one size fits all.” She learned how from a friend. 

“I just made them for Cyron (her son and former Destin city councilman) or people that I knew. I’d give them to anybody that likes them or wants one. … I just like to make them,” she said. 

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Marler later taught her sister how to make the caps before they found out about the veterans. 

“I can’t tell you just how we found out about them,” she said. 

Betty Marler says the caps for babies should be no bigger than your fist.

Anyhow, Marler would make the caps and her sister Jean would take them to a woman in Columbus, Georgia, who visited the veterans hospital in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Since then, they have made a connection with a man who takes them to the Pensacola VA Clinic. 

“My hats are all over the place,” she said. 

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“I don’t care where they send them as long as the veterans get them. I was told the veterans in the hospital that their heads get cold and they like to wear something on their heads,” Marler said. 

Although she has made thousands during the years and sent them out, she’s only received one thank you note. 

Betty Marler says she uses a simple stitch to make the caps for the babies and veterans.

‘But I don’t expect any thanks back for them," she said. "I give them because I like to do that. So, I don’t expect anybody to send me a thank you note.” 

As for the baby caps, she started making those for the premature babies. But again, she said she doesn’t care which babies get them as long as they are used and needed. 

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“When they are born, they’re real small and their heads ain’t very big,” she said.

Marler said the woman at the hospital asked that the baby caps be no bigger than your fist. 

Marler bought a couple of baby dolls that she uses to see how the caps will look on the babies. 

In the past few weeks she sent out two bags of caps — about 20 in each bag — to the veterans and one bag for the babies. 

Marler said it takes her about two hours to make a baby cap and, of course, longer for the bigger ones. 

Betty Marler uses baby dolls to help measure the size and to see what the caps will look like on babies.

"It’s just a simple stitch. They’re not fancy … same stitch the whole time. I never get tired of it,” she said. "I learned when I was young and I like it. It calms my nerves. If you’re real nervous you can sit down and do that and you calm down. It’s just a hobby.

“I’m making something that somebody can use. I don’t mind doing it. It’s enjoyment … been doing it practically all my life,” she added. 

And she doesn’t let any thread go to waste. If she has some left over, she makes pot holders and coasters. 

But Marler is all about helping others. 

“I’ve always loved to help people. I learned how to do that working in the hospitals,” she said, noting her first job was working as a “maid” in the hospital in Phenix City, Alabama.

In addition to crocheting, Betty Marler loves spending time in her yard in Destin.

“Back then, you did bed pans and temperatures.”

But for now she’s making caps if she’s not doing dishes, washing clothes, reading, working on her puzzle books or working in the yard. She also walks a mile every morning. 

“I feel like I’m lost if I don’t get to walk … like there’s something missing somewhere,” she said. 

How long does she plan to make the caps?

"As long as I’m able, and can see … and got thread.”