Home People Profile Bham People Beverly Clark Introduces Youth to the Lost Art of Crochet

Beverly Clark Introduces Youth to the Lost Art of Crochet

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Beverly Clark turned to crocheting after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In November 2020, a week after undergoing a biopsy, she took up the skill while dealing with anxiety. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)
By Sym Posey
The Birmingham Times

Beverly Clark remembers “minding her own business,” crocheting a hat-and-scarf set while helping her daughter at a pop-up event, and a customer came by and bought one of Clark’s crocheted crafts.

Little did she know that the customer was an administrator for Better Basics, an organization dedicated to advancing reading and math literacy, and that the sale would lead her teaching crochet classes at Glen Oaks Elementary School and C.J. Donald Middle School in Fairfield, Alabama.

“My daughter, [LaTisha Hunter-Love], had a pop-up shop, in November 2020, near Center Point, [Alabama], where she was selling T-shirts, jewelry, candles [and other items].

She said, ‘Come help me,’ and I took my crochet [needles and some yarn] because I thought I’d be bored,” Clark remembered. “My daughter also asked me to bring [some of the hats I had crocheted], and I said, ‘These are for my cancer patients, and I donate them.’ She said, ‘Bring them and sell one or two.’ I put them out and sold all my hats.”

One customer sale stood out—when Better Basics administrator Gina Waldorf asked Clark if she would be interested in teaching young people how to crochet after school. “She said to me, ‘You crochet?’ My students need this. This is a dying art,’” said Clark.

Founded in 1993, Better Basics delivers a range of research-based intervention and enrichment programs to children from birth to 12th grade in central Alabama through collaboration with public schools, partners, and community organizations in underserved areas.

Since February 2021, Clark has been teaching Better Basics students in Fairfield how to crochet.

“Some of them really take to it,” she said. “Some create their own designs now. They love learning new stitches. … It’s gratifying for me because when I teach them something new their faces light up. It’s just awesome.”

Some of the elementary school students take a little bit more time, Clark said: “They [sometimes] give up quickly, but if you sit there with them, work with them a little bit, and show them how to get it done, they make two or three [crochet] chains by themselves and feel like they have arrived. They are the world’s best designers.”

A retired branch manager at a loan company, Clark, 66, currently resides in Montevallo, Alabama, and drives from Montevallo to Fairfield to teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Dealing With Anxiety

Clark turned to crocheting after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In November 2020, a week after undergoing a biopsy (the removal of cells, tissue, or fluid to be examined by a medical pathologist), she took up the skill while dealing with anxiety. A former seamstress who once owned a bridal dress shop, Heritage Fashions, for six years, Clark was familiar with the art of sewing but was new to crocheting.

“I found myself stressing out a bit, [thinking] ‘What if they didn’t get all the cancer? What if it comes back?’” she said. “I feel like the Lord said, ‘Y’know what? Let me give her something to do besides worrying my angels.’ I always wanted to learn how to crochet. I could chain out, [a basic foundational element of crocheting], but I couldn’t bring it back and make something. One day, I looked at it, and said, ‘I could do that.’ Then I found a YouTube video, and the rest is history.”

Clark’s experience with breast cancer is not like that of the average survivor.

“I just feel so blessed. I just must tell somebody,” she said, as she told her story.

In February 2020, Clark went to receive a baseline mammogram while doing her yearly exam. A baseline mammogram, usually the first screening a woman gets, is used for comparison with follow-up screenings. Doctors saw something, but it would be a while before Clark would make her way back to the doctor’s office.

“Doctors called me and asked me to come back in for a recheck,” she recalled. “Me, being hardheaded, I was like, ‘I’m not fooling with y’all.’ I had a baseline, and they told me that was all I needed.’”

After months of delaying and miscommunication, a family friend reached out to Clark in September 2020.

“Finally, I got in touch with my doctor,” Clark recalled. “His nurse, who graduated with my daughter, called, and she said the hospital had been trying to get in touch with me. I went in for [another] mammogram, and they found some abnormality, so they sent me for a biopsy.” The exam revealed malignant cells.

“November 9. I will never forget that day,” said Clark. “It was me, the doctor, and the nurse, and he said, ‘We did find some malignant cells. You have breast cancer.’ When you hear that, you’re in denial. It is instantaneous. I thought he was talking to somebody behind me. I started looking around like, ‘He’s got to be talking to somebody else. He is not talking to me.’”

Before her diagnosis, Clark and her family had dealt with the deaths of her first husband and father of her children in July 2020 due to COVID and her second husband in 2015 to lung cancer—and the news of her diagnosis did not go over well. Her family demanded that she move closer to home and get a second opinion. The second opinion confirmed that Clark did, indeed, have breast cancer.

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Verses That Heal

In the months prior to her diagnosis, Clark felt compelled to recite two scriptures regularly: Luke 4:23 (King James Version)—“And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country,’” and Isaiah 53:5 (King James Version)—“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Clark said, “These scriptures kept coming to my mind, by ‘his stripes [we] are healed.’ And that kept being pressed on me to say it, … maybe once or twice [a day], no big deal. [Then] a week would go by, and I would feel a need to repeat this: ‘Physician, heal thyself.’ That pressed on me strong, too. It was in my spirit so hard from August all the way up until I was diagnosed. I said, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I’m just going to repeat it and say it.’ Some mornings I would wake up saying those verses.”

Those scriptures were embedded deep into Clark’s spirit when she learned that doctors were able to catch her cancer early, resulting in her having to only undergo surgery and a short radiation treatment—something that is unlikely in most cases.

“They got all my cancer when they did the biopsy. They said they were so surprised because it was so small, … about the size of a pen. It had never broken through the ducts, so it never entered my body. They got it real early,” she said.

Personal Favorites

Clark is a native of Andalusia, Alabama, the county seat of Covington County. She moved to Birmingham in 2011, after separating from her second husband, but moved back to her hometown of Opp, AL to care for her mother, Agnes Carpenter, in 2018. Clark says her mother, who currently still resides in Covington County, is “spoiled as ever.”

Clark has several favorite things to do when she is not teaching the art of crocheting to students in Fairfield. She enjoys coffee-and–ice cream dates with her son, Sullivan Tyrrell Hunter, and her grandchildren: London Hunter, 14; Malachi Hunter, 1; and Kingston Hunter, 2 months.

Her favorite ice cream flavor is peach pecan, which is found only at “a peach farm in Clanton,” she said. Her favorite food is chicken alfredo. Her favorite color is green. Her favorite movies are “Something the Lord Made,” a 2004 made-for-television movie about pioneering Black cardiac surgeon Vivian Thomas, starring rapper-actor Yasiin Bey, better known as Mos Def; “The Fifth Element,” a 1997 science fiction film starring actor Bruce Wills as well as comedian-actor Chris Tucker; and “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” a 1995 film also starring Willis, along with actor Samuel L. Jackson.

Another one of Clark’s favorite things—spending time crocheting hats for cancer patients.