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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Hal Farnsworth, 89, uses a plastic loom to weave hats for cancer patients and the poor. He has made over 4,000 hats since he took up the hobby.

PROVO — First Hal Farnsworth made a loom out of wood for one of his granddaughters. Then all 12 of them wanted one. But by then, he had found he could get a plastic loom that worked better and was more flexible. Why, he could use it himself. And he did.

During World War II, he was a Navy radar specialist. An electronics engineer his whole career, as a retiree he became a weaver, making hats with the loom he'd bought to teach his granddaughters. "It's in my blood, I suppose. I am a fourth-generation weaver," he says of the hobby that traces back through his dad, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Now 89, and approaching his 70th wedding anniversary with wife, Lea, in June, he's been weaving the hats with acrylic four-ply yarn and delivering them mostly to patients at health care clinics or to the homeless, usually through United Way in Utah County. He's given the stocking-type caps to women who lost hair to cancer, homeless men whose heads seem cold and oncology departments across the valley. He's even sent the hats as far away as Africa to people who sleep outdoors and worry about insects getting into their hair.

It's probably not the hobby he expected when he was a boy in Rhode Island, he says now with a laugh. But it's a hobby that suits him.

Eventually, he and Lea had two daughters and a son, as well as 12 granddaughters. His hobby has become a big one, consuming miles and miles of yarn. He makes about 350 hats a year and has created more than 4,300 since he started 11 years ago.

In 2003, when he'd done about 800 hats, then-Gov. Olene Walker named him one of Utah's Points of Light.

He can usually count on getting a couple of skeins of yarn on his birthday and the local Relief Society at his LDS congregation has provided quite a bit, as well. And sometimes, he says, strangers and friends give him cash to buy yarn.

The time and love, though? They are all his.

e-mail: lois@desnews.com