Couple knitters, not quitters

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Bea and Cliff Libby have spent 42 years and two months of their 53 years together taking care of people’s heads.

As barbers, the couple worked side by side in their home running Cliff’s Barber Shop on Gloucester Hill Road.

Now retired from cutting people’s hair, the couple have remained connected to their specialty — keeping people and their heads happy — by exchanging their barber tools for knitting equipment.

They now work out of their living room, where they spend their time knitting together when Bea’s not making quilts or, in fair weather, in her flower garden.

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“I tried to find something to help Cliff keep busy,” said Bea. “I had a lot of yarn my daughters brought home. So last year I tried to teach him to knit with knitting needles, but that was too hard.”

Bea’s not a quitter, and she eventually discovered a special tool, the Knifty Knitter, and Cliff found his niche and stitch from that day on. She said he created most of the 300 hats since Thanksgiving that the pair donated to worthy causes to keep children’s heads warm.

Their hats have found their way to children through a Central Maine Power Co. initiative. The couple’s daily ritual of getting together with friends every morning at Mario’s in Upper Gloucester resulted in a donation of 30 hats to help children. The First Congregational Church of New Gloucester was another recipient of the Libbys’ work. And the list goes on. There remain 50 hats still awaiting a child’s head.

The Libbys say they’ll swap hats for yarn, synthetic yarn, worsted weight, as long as it’s not 100 percent wool.

“It’s too bad when you have to stop cutting wood and start knitting,” says Cliff Libby, showing a wee smile. He will turn 80 in the fall. “I guess that means I’m getting old.”

Cliff has survived a series of tough health issues that have put a damper on his stamina. A recipient of triple-bypass heart surgery, six stents and having both hips replaced — one several times — he must also keep daily track of his diabetes.

The couple continue to give their gifts of time to help others outside the house. Monthly suppers at the AMVET Post 6 Hall on Route 100 find the pair side by side in the kitchen cooking for the crowd.

That’s the way it’s always been, said Bea, talking about community service. It’s a major part of their lives and continues to bring them into the lives of others.

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