Advancing National Service

This 85-Year-Old Knitter Churns Out Hats to Help Homeless Veterans

December 4, 2014
This 85-Year-Old Knitter Churns Out Hats to Help Homeless Veterans
Mark Skattum uses a round loom to knit stocking caps in his Northglenn home, Nov. 24, 2014. Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post
Octogenarian Mark Skattum picked up his craft just a few years ago.

Seven years ago, 85-year-old Orville “Mark” Skattum, who served in the Army National Guard during the Korean conflict, took up a new hobby: knitting.

He got the idea after seeing a friend work on a loom. After getting one of his own, he started knitting hats to give to family and friends at Christmas. Then, he realized that homeless veterans could use some extra warmth.

“I feel sorry for the ones that have a hard time. They’re homeless and out of work,” he tells Kevin Simpson of the Denver Post. “The least I can do is help out a little.”

Skattum began knitting about five hats a week, each with a tag that reads, “Made by a Vet, for a Vet…God bless.” Whenever he has completed 50 hats, he donates them either to his church or to the Denver V.A. hospital to be given to needy vets. He estimates he’s knitted 1,200 hats.

Last year, his daughter Karla Tillapaugh joked with her father about getting a booth at Holiday ManCraft, a hipster-delighting fair that has been showcasing the wares of crafty men — many of them professional artisans — since 2000. She didn’t realize he’d taken her seriously until several months later, when he told her that he’d knitted 150 caps for his booth. Tillapaugh quickly contacted the craft fair organizers to see if her dad could join.

ManCraft founder Stu Alden immediately accepted him. “How can you say no to that?” he tells the Denver Post. “There was something really touching that he got excited about it.”

Skattum will be selling his specialty hat, called Orville’s Bucket, when Holiday ManCraft takes over a Denver VFW Post on December 5 and a Boulder, Colo., American Legion on December 6.

Not surprisingly, Skattum plans to donate any proceeds to charity.

MORE: How One Veteran Discovered the Healing Power of Art and Made it His Mission to Share with Others