TenHagen sews nearly 300 blankets a year, and sometimes as many as 3-4 in one day. Her blankets are donated to Love INC, The Salvation Army and the Veterans Home in Grand Rapids.
She found out about the war veterans through the American Legion and her friend, Pat Best of Nunica.
“In October of every year, there is a blanket drive for new blankets for homeless veterans at the Veterans Home in Grand Rapids,” Best said. “Mary makes blankets for the veterans in the home as well as the homeless vets. I’ve hauled blankets that Mary has made for the veterans for the past 3-4 years.”
TenHagen recalled that one veteran had a passion for fishing and requested a blanket with a fish design. She found a fleece material with fish and made it for him.
She makes all veterans blankets 50-by-60 inches so they can be completely covered.
A few anonymous donors, but mostly her immediate family, cover the cost for the fleece material. Her daughter, Sandy, cuts the material. This year, the Eagles gave TenHagen money to buy fleece.
She has received three “thank-you” letters from the U.S. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for her donation of blankets.
“The blankets are warm and heavy, and all brand new,” TenHagen said. “I love to sit here with my cup of coffee and sew. This makes me happy.”
TenHagen also made blankets for 23 Goodfellow kids this year.
“The kids just love having the blankets to wrap themselves up in,” Best said.
TenHagen suffered a stroke early last month, five days after her 85th birthday. After spending a few weeks in a nursing home, she returned home the day after Thanksgiving. That night, she picked up a blanket and started sewing.
“We told my mom to slow down and rest as soon as we saw her starting to sew again,” said her son, Rusty.
But TenHagen was determined to finish a blanket she had been working on before the stroke.
“I’m a strong old Dutch woman,” she said. “This gives me something to do and keeps me busy. It gives me a purpose and keeps me out of trouble.”
Mary and Russ TenHagen have been married for 65 years, and they have lived in the same Grand Haven home the entire time.
“My grandfather came to Grand Haven in 1853 from the Netherlands,” Mary said. “He was a cigar maker and had a shop downtown a few doors from Fortino’s. We have a big family here and we’re all very close.”