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97-Year-Old Hoover’s Valley Woman Knits Thousands of Caps For Cancer Patients

Hoover’s Valley resident Rosie Devaney, 97, works on a hand-knit cap that will go to someone battling cancer. Devaney has knitted more than 2,600 of the caps, which have been dispersed at cancer clinics and to people across Texas. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

HOOVER’S VALLEY — A hand-knit cap covers a clock sitting on Rosie Devaney’s mantel. It’s the 2,500th cap Devaney has knitted for cancer patients, but she’s already well beyond that mark.

“Oh, I’ve made, I’d say at least 2,600,” the 97-year old said.

Immediately you think: "Well, she’s 97. She's had decades to accomplish such a feat."

But you’d be a bit off with your calculations. She only began knitting these caps for cancer patients in 2005.

Devaney, who’s witnessed the world shift from a crank phone on the wall to the handheld wonder of a smartphone, is a living testament to love in action. It’s evident in the hundreds upon hundreds of hats she’s made by hand and distributed — for free — to cancer patients across Texas who are going through chemotherapy.

That love is also evident in her four grown children as well as her husband, Joe Devaney, who has passed away.

“My proudest accomplishment is that all four of my boys speak to each other, look forward to seeing each other, and still look forward to seeing me,” Rosie said with a laugh.

On top of that, two of her sons became school teachers, she said proudly. Then, she smiled before adding, “And two make me pay for my sins; two became musicians.”

One son, Timothy, who was a teacher, chuckled at his mom’s quip as he sat nearby. He pointed out that his two siblings were pretty good musicians.

Communication, she said, is the key to raising kids.

“Parents need to listen to their children, even if what they’re saying doesn’t make sense to you because it’s important to them. You listen to them, and you don’t cut them off,” Rosie said. “As long as you have communication, you can work things out.”

She witnessed her parents go through a divorce, so when she married Joe, the couple vowed that, no matter what, they would work it out.

“Divorce was never mentioned,” she said.

The two led quite an adventurous life with Joe working for ARCO, an oil and gas company. The job landed them in towns in Texas and Louisiana.

“We always found it very convenient to move to where they sent my husband’s paycheck,” Rosie said as a smile slipped across her face.

After the couple settled in the Hoover’s Valley community, on property Rosie’s mom purchased in the 1950s, Alzheimer’s disease worked its way into Joe’s body. Despite the prognosis, the couple continued to travel and enjoy life. Rosie was always at her husband’s side during the 13 years of the disease. They even took a cruise through the inland passage of the Pacific Northwest to Alaska along with friends from the Highland Lakes. They helped her look after Joe on the cruise.

He passed away in 2004.

The next year, a neighbor, who was going to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for chemotherapy, asked Rosie to teach her to knit. It seemed like a reasonable request, but it also piqued Rosie’s curiosity.

“Why do you want to learn to knit,” Rosie asked the woman.

The friend explained that, during her trips to M.D. Anderson, she saw children battling cancer and going through chemotherapy who had lost their hair, and she wanted to knit them caps.

Rosie thought this was a great project, not just for her neighbor but also for herself.

“I’m not one to just sit around and watch television,” Rosie said. “I have to be doing something.”

She began knitting caps for the children, and every time her neighbor went to M.D. Anderson, Rosie loaded her up with bags of caps.

Rosie’s knitting needles and yarn didn’t stop there. She kept knitting, eventually making caps for adults, and her love spread out across Texas in the form of these hats.

Son Timothy and his wife lived in Irving before they retired to the Hill Country. Every time they’d come down to visit Rosie and his brothers, she’d send the couple back to Irving with a bag full of hats. They’d pass them out to people going through chemotherapy or drop them off at cancer clinics.

“All we asked is they give them away and not charge anyone for them,” Timothy said.

Sitting in her Hoover’s Valley home knitting caps doesn’t sound like it makes much of an impact, but Rosie’s work has touched the lives of thousands of people. A friend from San Marcos collected a couple bags of hats to hand out at cancer clinics in the area. The friend noted that one particular gentleman in the terminal stage of cancer, wearing one of Rosie’s caps, broke into a big grin.

Another woman from Rosie’s neighborhood found herself battling cancer and losing her hair from the treatments. Rosie invited her over to pick out a cap. She spread them across a bed in her house and let the woman choose. When the woman picked one and pulled it down on her head, Rosie noticed a tear rolling down her friend's cheek. It was the first time in three days, the woman told Rosie, that her head was warm.

“That’s what it’s about,” Rosie said. “Even if they just wear it for 15 minutes and never wear it again, as long as it’s helped them, helped them feel better, warmer. That’s all that matters.”

Though she could knit a cap in about 4½ hours, Rosie usually finishes one a day.

“There are other things I do,” she explained.

Whatever Rosie does — whether knitting caps for people battling cancer or raising four boys — love features big in the process.

“And if you know someone with cancer, send them over. I’ll give them a hat,” she added.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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There are 3 comments.

Christine Devaney Stevenson —
My Aunt Rosie is a blessing to all that know her. She’s an incredible woman.
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Teresa —
What a wonderful gesture lovely hearted lady she is.. God bless her!
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Lori —
This woman is an angel. The kindness of strangers at a moment when serious illness hits lifts the spirits of the sick. I am in treatment right now, and thankfully do not have to have chemotherapy, so I shouldn't need a hat. I am very touched by Rosie's kindness and other strangers who have extended an unexpected kindness to me during this journey. The world has good people in it and you lift up those of us whose spirit is flagging. Thank you!
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