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SPOTLIGHT ON…Pauline Chernick

Still weaving after all these years

By Alex Putterman

Pauline Chernick and a friend chat at the Weaving Center in Hartford.

Pauline Chernick and a friend chat at the Weaving Center in Hartford.

HARTFORD – Eye color is one trait that doesn’t dull with age. At 102 years old, Pauline Chernick’s irises remain deeply blue – imagine the ocean on a Caribbean vacation brochure. Those eyes don’t see so well anymore – macular degeneration limits Chernick’s vision – but over more than a century they’ve taken in plenty.

Today, Chernick lives in West Hartford’s Hebrew Home, receiving daily visits from her nephew and leaving once a week for a welcome excursion to engage in her favorite hobby.

The Hartford Artisans Weaving Center has – for eight-10 years, Chernick estimates – been a principal source of her leisure time. The Weaving Center teaches the blind and elderly the art of hand-weaving, a hobby for the participants and a practicality for the Center, which turns the fabric they weave into scarves, blankets, clothing and more, then sells the products at outlets in the community and at their own mid-November open house.

Chernick, the program’s oldest artisan by nearly a decade, has found activity increasingly difficult as she has become more and more frail over the years. Weaving energizes her, she says. It allows her respite from her usual environment and drops her into one that feeds her desire to be active and her need to be social. In this way, she perfectly exemplifies the Center’s mission.

“Especially for somebody like Pauline who can’t stand to sit around and play bingo, it gives her something so that she feels like she’s contributing to life,” says Dorrie Hunt, secretary of the Center’s Board of Directors. “That she’s part of life. That she’s not just sitting passively and waiting for life to go on. That she’s actively doing something and interacting.”

Chernick was born in New York City, grew up in Monticello, N.Y. and in 1985 moved to Manchester, where she lived with her niece. She never married or had children but greatly enjoyed the company of family. She travelled throughout her life, particularly enjoying Paris and Athens, and read “anything and everything that I could get at,” the New York Times being her favorite. Her family was Orthodox, and she has been a lifetime Hadassah member while belonging to synagogues in Monticello and Manchester.

Chernick has more or less remained healthy as she has aged. Only in the past few years has she required a walker, and in February she spent 10 days in a hospital, but overall she is well.

The world isn’t what it used to be, she says, probably because families are less close-knit, but things aren’t too bad nowadays either. Social interaction has always been paramount to Chernick, and it vitalizes her still. She speaks frequently with her niece, and her nephew, Abe Linner, stops by at least six times a week, sitting and chatting with her in the Hebrew Home lobby or guiding her on hour-long walks.

Still, weaving and the social interaction it brings is the highlight of Chernick’s week.

“I feel comfortable (weaving),” Chernick says. “I’d rather do that than anything else.”

Linner says weaving keeps his aunt’s spirits high, gives her a sense of accomplishment. Linner, like most of the family, calls his aunt “Pesh,” short for Peshye, her Hebrew name. The nickname is a relic of the past, of pleasant memories and happy days with family in Monticello. The past has been a lengthy prologue. Now Chernick weaves her future.

Comments? email alexp@jewishledger.com

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