July 01, 2002
By: Kim Windmiller
MCCALL CREEK -- The hobby of making afghans has not only helped occupy the time of a Franklin County woman for the past two decades, but it has also allowed her some great perks.
Mary Frances Smith isn't a politician, but she has met plenty of them through the fruits of her labor.
"At first I'm kind of nervous when I meet them, but then I see they're just everyday people," said Smith.
She spends her days making afghans for dignitaries in an attempt to keep her mind off the pain she endures with multiple sclerosis, the debilitating disease she was diagnosed with in 1991.
"I can't do much, but this gives me something to do that I enjoy and it's good therapy," she said.
Smith has presented quilts to Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove, former governors Ray Mabus and Kirk Fordice, Secretary of State Eric Clark, former first lady Pat Fordice, Lieutenant Governor Amy Tuck, former congressman Mike Parker, former Lieutenant Governor Brad Dye, Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran as well as the late Jim "Buck" Ross, a former state agriculture commissioner, and George Dale, the state's insurance commissioner.
"I usually make the afghans in September and October for the grand marshal of the Bude parade in December," said Smith. "It's rewarding because they're always so surprised and happy."
She was first commissioned with the honor in 1983 when long-time weatherman Woodie Assaf was asked to reign over the parade. Every year since, parade coordinator Mary Lou Webb has asked Smith to design a beautiful afghan to give to the parade's grand marshal.
"Most of the time she gives me a picture to go by or has an idea of what she wants," said Smith, mentioning the use of emblems, official seals and logos on the afghans.
It takes her just a little over a week to create an afghan with the use of a crocheting needle and yarn.
"I make it where people can use either side. One side is solid and the other has a design," she said.
She also customizes her afghans for family members with designs from a confederate flag to a fire truck or an oil rig, depending on the request. When her sons were younger, she designed and donated afghans to their Boy Scouts troop or baseball teams.
Her afghans can also be spotted in the offices or homes of other well-known Mississippians, such as radio personality Paul Ott or the owners of large businesses in the state.
She even donated an afghan to the Ronald McDonald House in Jackson for the families to use while tending to a loved one in a nearby hospital. At least one of her afghans has been viewed by hundreds of people at the space museum in Columbus, Ga.
"The shuttle Challenger blew up on my birthday. I made an afghan to remember it and it's hanging in the space museum now," she said.
A few years ago Smith was able to meet several dignitaries from Bude, England, when she made an afghan in honor of the town that Bude, Mississippi was named after decades ago.
"People say that someone came here (Franklin County) and built the sawmill and named it Bude," said Smith.
Smith plans to continue making afghans as long as possible and she's glad to know someone will carry on the tradition when she can no longer. Her granddaughter, Katelynne, has already started learning to make the afghans and takes every opportunity to learn the trade.
"Katelynne started learning to crochet when she was five years old and
she sewed a skirt last year and had never even used a sewing machine, so
she's got the talent," said Smith.
© The Daily Leader 2002