Lou Jean Stanger the Afghan Ace

This North Ogden resident has made around 70 afghans and has entered quite a number of them into the Weber County Fair over the years.

Lou Jean Stanger has won ribbons at the fair for hand sewn projects, baked goods, or crocheted items since she was a teenager.  She was a part of the 4-H Club and once she went on to the State Fair in Salt Lake City to display a handmade dress she sewed as one of her 4-H projects.  She even volunteered as a judge at the State Fair at one point.  Today she continues to enter an item or two into the fair every year and lately she has been submitting crocheted afghans and baby blankets.

“I crocheted afghans for all my grandkids as they graduated high school. I entered some of them into the Weber County Fair if I had one that was done.” Lou Jean has a talent for making afghans, but when her daughter in-law’s dying wish from her was to make afghans for her own grandchildren (Lou Jean’s great grandchildren), she really got crocheting.

Her daughter in-law Beverly had corticobasal degeneration, a brain disease, and she lived for about 9 ½ years after she was diagnosed. “Just before she died she asked me if I would crochet an afgan for her first child, my first great grandchild” which they would give to him when he graduated from high school. When she finished, Lou Jean entered it into the fair. 

Eventually Beverly’s condition deteriorated to a point so bad she couldn’t use her hands at all. At that time, she asked Lou Jean if she would crochet afghans for each of her husband’s grandkids and he had 14 at the time. “I have finished all 14 of them and given them to my son Bruce Roberts.”  Only four of the 14 have graduated and Bruce will give them to each grandkid when the time is right. She explained some of them have a ways to go still. “One is in second grade and one of them isn’t even in school yet!”

With a smile in her voice, Lou Jean told me how her daughter Ann Brunetti said if she was willing to making them for Bruce’s Grandkids, she needed to make some for hers. So she made one for each of Ann’s five grandchildren. 

After Bruce’s wife Beverly passed away 3 ½ years ago, he married Katie who brought quite a few grandchildren to their marriage. Between Lou Jean’s three marriages and Bruce’s two marriages, she has 215 great grandchildren. “I’m not about to make that many [afghans]!”

She guesses she has made around 70 afghans in her life and she will probably make more after she navigates a temporary road block. Carpel Tunnel might be about the most inconvenient fate for a crocheter. First it disabled her right wrist, but now it has incapacitated her left. She laughingly said, “The whole year has been occupied with carpel tunnel crap and I don’t appreciate it! I can’t wait to get it all over with.” She is in good spirits and is optimistic especially with the improvement she has seen in her right hand since her surgery last spring, but it is keeping her from entering more projects into the fair this year.  Her recovery is following in line with what her doctor told her she could expect and she is anticipating surgery on her left soon. I’m confident she will be back to crocheting in no time after this next surgery. She said, “I’m pleased that I’m still here and still able to keep up with everyone.”

Lou Jean Stanger’s ties to North Ogden stem back to the pioneers who first settled the area. “We were Shaws originally,” and she and her siblings have been in North Ogden all their lives. Her dad and grandfather moved the family from a big farm on Elberta Drive in 1940 when they built the home on 2600 N where she currently resides.

She has passed on her crochet talent to her children and her love of participating in fairs. “My oldest son Bruce worked for valley nursery up until this past spring. He had a booth in the spring fair at the fairgrounds where he would have demonstrations.” Also, she looks forward to attending the fair every year with her son Craig Roberts. She said it’s always fun to see if she gets ribbons for her entries.

What is an afghan?

When I hear the word Afghan I think of two things: first, the blue and white blanket that was draped over the rocking chair when I was young, and second, a person from Afghanistan. That got me thinking, are the two related? It turns out they are! The people of Afghanistan were the original producers of oriental rugs that feature stripes, zigzags, or squares, varying in size and vivid colors. I’ve learned two important things, Afghans make Afghans and afghans, and the love woven blanket a relative has made or passed on to us has a history of its own that originated  half a world away. 

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