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Betty Kelly - ATHA Founding Member

September 5, 1920 - December 17, 2022

The traditional rug hooking world lost one of ATHA's founding members, Betty Kelly, on Dec 17, 2022.

Betty, who was self-taught, started hooking in the 1960's.  She bought her first rug pattern from an ad in American Home Magazine for a rug designed by Rebecca Andrews.  The pattern along with the wool, cost $3.95 at the time.  Betty's hooking style evolved over her 50+ years of hooking.  She started out using a 3 cut on everything, but gradually changed to a 4 or 6 cut.  She was partial to hooking floor rugs, but enjoyed hooking pictures and trivets as well.  When Betty first hooked, she used burlap like everyone else, then turned to linen for it's durability.  Eventually she preferred hooking on monk's cloth.

Betty's First rug, hooked in 1970, photo taken in 2018.  The rug has been in service for 48 years, and still looks great!

In 1979, Betty enthusiastically responded to Peg Hansen's ad in the Rug Hooker's News and Views asking if anyone was interested in forming an open guild where hookers could share their talents.  The Association of Traditional Hooking Artists (ATHA) first meeting was held in April of 1979, where Betty not only joined, but agreed to be treasurer and also took the first minutes as temporary secretary.  When Peg Hansen became too ill to continue spearheading ATHA, Betty volunteered to do whatever she could to keep things going and to keep the newly formed ATHA from floundering.

ATHA'first meeting, April 22, 1979.  Betty is seated in the front row, second from the right.  (Photo from the ATHA Archives)

Betty was awarded ATHA lifetime membership in 1980 for the role she played in the early days of ATHA - an honor well-deserved.

ATHA can be proud to hail her as one of our founders.  Her dedication and tenacity in ATHA's early days has made the organization what it is today.

Betty's close friends remember her fondly as a talented and passionate rug hooker, a generous and patient teacher and someone who could out hook us all.

Some of Betty's rugs are shown below:

Porter Road was featured in Rug Hooking Celebration IV.

 Betty hooked the Plump Wife rug for her brother's summer house.

The Crusoe Rug was made for Betty's daughter and son-in-law whose last name is Robinson.

n 2019, ATHA published a "Blast From the Past" article commemorating Betty Kelly.  Here are a few quotes from that article:

DD: Betty is a delightful person who enjoys having a good time whether it is a meeting, hook-in or rug school.  At age 98, she can still out-hook all of us.  We tease her by telling her she must have a motorized hand because she works so quickly.  She is willing to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for rug hooking with everyone.

CM: Betty was our rug hooking teacher at The Porter Memorial and her enthusiasm never wavered as we made every effort to follow her lead.  Betty was the epitome of patience, and eventually we caught on.  At time, she did roll her eyes and every so often would say, 'Just fudge it!'.  But I know she was choking when she said that because that was not the way she ever did things.  Betty only knows one way to do things, and  that's the right way, and the right way is how she lives.  I am so grateful to be able to call her my friend and feel so blessed for our years together.

And from Betty herself: When I join a group, for whatever purpose, I never want to be 'just a member'.  I figure, 'Put up or shut up'.  I like to get my oar in, not to run the show, but just to help.  If you hold a position in a group, you can have input into what's going on and do your part to help and share the responsibility.