Born in eastern Germany, Helga Kessler learned to crochet and knit as a child. In 1958, Kessler moved to the United States to marry a U.S. soldier and begin a family. Three years later, she received a diagnosis of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD).
After her diagnosis, creating homemade crafts became a hobby that continues to drive Kessler, 69, who now uses a power wheelchair and lives at Shepherd’s Choice, a nursing home in Gettysburg, Pa.
Crafts have kept her mind and hands occupied as she creates everything from dresses, hats and baby blankets to pocketbooks and underwear. Last year, Kessler donated 10 women’s and girls’ dresses to Shepherd’s Choice for a community sale.
In the 1970s, Kessler began having trouble lifting the knitting needles, but crocheting is still a favorite pastime. She creates handmade Barbie clothes for the youngest of her six grandchildren.Kessler also learned to express her creativity in a new way — making colorful pictures of flowers, birds and other nature scenes using acrylic paint and colored pencils.
“Whatever comes across my head, that’s what I put on paper,” says Kessler. “When I come across pictures in a magazine I go, ‘Maybe I can do this and I can do that.’ Sometimes it gives me the idea for little bits.”
Kessler loves creating artwork for family, friends and fellow nursing home residents to enjoy. She also donates her creations for benefit auctions.
Kessler’s activities help her deal with her disability in a positive way. She advises others, especially those living in nursing homes, to find a hobby they enjoy and stick with it.