After Cohen Florence Levine Estates on Admiral’s Hill in Chelsea closed its doors to visitors to protect against the COVID-19 outbreak, friends and fourth-floor neighbors Joan Goldstein, 89, and Charlotte Moses, 90, soon realized they would need a way to pass the extra time.
So one day, while wearing face masks and remaining socially distanced from one another, they met in a common area within the assisted living residence and began to knit.
In fact, they enjoyed the experience so much that they agreed to repeat it the following day.
As the pair’s attempt at distraction evolved into a daily habit, other residents took up their knitting needles and joined them. The impromptu knitting club, which at one point swelled to 10 members, is now a regular trio comprising Goldstein, Moses, and 89-year-old Ida Rudolph.
“One by one, you’d hear, ‘My wrist hurts. Oh, my neck!’ and they’d stop coming,” Rudolph said with amused exasperation. “But people still visit and sit with us, and we solve the problems of the world. We talk about any little thing and we laugh. That’s what makes this such a nice place. People do have a sense of humor.”
Moses said the camaraderie while talking, laughing, telling stories, and discussing current events has been therapeutic throughout the pandemic.
“Knitting gives me pleasure,” she said, “and it relaxes me.”
Goldstein agreed. “I have seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren,” she said, “but I couldn’t hug or kiss any of them.”
Instead, the women have turned to one another for solace, companionship, and deepening friendships.
Rudolph and Moses were both born and raised in Chelsea, and attended the Sherman School, Newman Junior High School, and Chelsea High School.
“I’ve loved living in Chelsea,” said Rudolph, who learned to knit in fifth grade using two pencils. “To this day, I still remember every word of our high school songs.”
Moses moved to Brockton in 1953, where she met Goldstein. They became close friends, as did their husbands, and the couples often socialized. After raising their children and retiring, they even lived for several years in the same condominium complex in Boynton Beach, Fla.
“I can’t get rid of her. I try and it doesn’t work!” Goldstein joked. “But we’re still having fun.”
In fact, each woman is accomplished in her own right. Rudolph was a “candy girl” at a theater in Chelsea before holding an office job for 31 years at Bradlees. After she retired, she enrolled in acting classes and performed in local plays. Moses, a concert pianist, is a longtime knitter who previously sold handmade yarmulkes at her temple in Florida.
Goldstein graduated from Roxbury Memorial High School for Girls and earned a scholarship to Massachusetts College of Art and Design, but dropped out to attend secretarial school due to family pressure. The gifted artist sold her handcrafted jewelry while living in Florida, and she recently made bracelets for 50 staff members at Cohen Florence Levine Estates.
“We’re all different,” acknowledged Moses, “but we complement each other really well.”
Goldstein said the feeling is mutual. “It’s like one big, happy family,” she said. “There are always people to talk to, and the staff is so kind and caring.”
In fact, it was a staff member who suggested that the knitting club consider donating their handmade items. To date, the women estimate they have distributed more than 60 hats, headbands, and scarves to Boston Medical Center and the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea. Moses even has produced her own design: a long scarf with front pockets to hold tissues and other frequently needed items.
“These ladies are amazing,” said Kristen Donnelly, executive director of Cohen Florence Levine Estates. “They’re so dedicated and kind, with such big hearts. I’m very proud of them.”
All three said they have been humbled by the touching thank-you notes for their volunteer efforts, which are aided by yarn donations from staff members, fellow residents, and their family members.
“[The notes are] beyond anything we expected,” Goldstein said. “Knowing there is a demand for it, and people who appreciate it, keeps us going and makes us very happy to do it.”
Even though visitor restrictions have now loosened, the women intend to continue knitting together — as well as perhaps taking up another craft.
“Maybe over the summer,” Moses said, “we’ll make jewelry.”
“We can start crocheting and see what we can come up with,” Goldstein suggested.
Rudolph added, “Next year, you may even see us quilting. You never know.”
Moses considered this. “We’ll try that at our leisure, when we have leisure time,” she said. “We keep busy, trust me.”
The Cohen Florence Levine Estates knitting club is seeking donations of worsted wool yarn. For more information, contact activities director Shellie Honohan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cindy Cantrell may be reached at email@example.com.