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Published August 29 2013

104-year-old Mapleton woman still sewing to help others

MAPLETON, N.D. - “Now, this is the factory,” Myrtle Farrell said as she moved along with her walker.

A sewing machine sits on a table against the wall. An in-process project is spread across her bed. Photos of family and friends adorn a shelf near where she sleeps.

Myrtle is 104. She lives in Mapleton with longtime friends Tom and Jean Madsen, and she makes quilts that she donates and sells. She also makes pillows and blankets.

“Now, this is one that’ll be a little girly quilt,” she said of an item that was adorned with pink and light blue with a picture of Dora the Explorer in the middle square.

“Some little boy will be wrapped in that,” she said of another blanket she’d made.

She learned to sew from her mother.

“That’s the way kids learned years ago,” she said.

Her quilts can fetch a good price for charity. One, for example, sold for $200, with those funds benefiting Community of Care, a nonprofit in Casselton. Another brought $210 and benefited a war memorial in a Casselton cemetery.

Myrtle sometimes hears of families in need and sends them quilts. And she also donates small pillows to the ambulance service in Casselton.

“They have some little small pillows about this big to kind of tuck around (those being transported) to make them comfortable,” she said. “This way, if I make a few and give them to them, then they don’t have to buy them.”

Myrtle was born in Fargo in 1908. For years, she and her husband, Jimmy, lived in Mapleton, where he managed the co-op oil company in town. Myrtle also helped with the oil company, keeping books, pumping gas and more.

Tom and Jean say Myrtle takes pride in the quilts she makes.

“She likes knowing that people like her quilts,” Jean said. “She likes to make them as perfect as they can be.”

Myrtle came to live with the Madsens in January 2012. She had fallen several times and just wasn’t able to live on her own.

“So, it was either a nursing home or here,” Jean said.

She and Tom prayed and thought about it and decided to have her live with them.

“We love Myrtle,” she said.

Myrtle turns 105 in December. She still has a clever sense of humor about her, and she can still thread a needle.

“She can see better than I can,” Jean said.

Myrtle never knows what a quilt is going to look like when she starts.

“You never know until you get done,” she said.

But she does have a standard label that she affixes to the quilts she makes. It reads, “Made especially for you by Myrtle Farrell.”

As to why she keeps making quilts, Myrtle said, “Why do I do it? I guess you’ve got to do something.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734