Local man cranks out latch hook art work just to pass time

Bernard Woenker, of Huntington, sits in his living room surrounded by some of the latch hook rugs he has created. He estimates he has hooked as many as 300 rugs in the 40 to 50 years he has worked at his hobby.
Bernard Woenker, of Huntington, sits in his living room surrounded by some of the latch hook rugs he has created. He estimates he has hooked as many as 300 rugs in the 40 to 50 years he has worked at his hobby. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Sept. 10, 2015.

There are a baker’s dozen of colorful latch hook rugs found throughout Bernard Woenker’s apartment at the LaFontaine Center, and another hanging on his front door to welcome guests. He has hooked them all _ and more. Every one is a work of art.

“I have gone in his apartment and looked at them,” says Natalie Brautigam, service coordinator at the LaFontaine Center. “They’re wonderful. He spends a lot of time getting every color just right and putting them together.”

Other residents of the Senior housing facility have his rugs, too, although he doesn’t know who they are. Woenker hooks his rugs and gives many of them away.

“I take them down and put them on a table in the basement, where they have a non-perishables table,” he explains. “I put a box down there with maybe two or three in a box. They’ll be there a day or two and then they disappear.”

He has been hooking rugs for some 40 to 50 years — just to pass the time, he says.

“My wife and I started the hobby,” he recalls. “It was wintertime and we lived at the lake. We were getting bored watching TV, so I said, ‘Let’s go down to town and get us a kit.’ So I came up with a latch hook kit and started doing them.”

His wife, Sharon, passed away about a year later, but Woenker continued with his hobby and has been latch-hooking ever since, through good times and bad.

He sold his lake home in Kendallville and moved to Fort Wayne. He says he began on a downward slide and got into trouble. That’s when his children moved him into a nursing home. But after a time the nursing home officials kicked him out, telling him he didn’t need to be in a nursing facility.

That’s when he found his current apartment at the LaFontaine Center, where he’s lived for more than 13 years. He credits making his rugs with helping him cope and keeping him from what he called “bad habits.”

Since he first took up the hobby, Woenker estimates he’s hooked between 200 and 300 rugs. It can take him up to six weeks to completely hook and finish a large-sized rug. He’s sold a few — most for less than the cost of the kit — and has given way a lot more, many to them to his neighbors.

“I know he has shared a lot of his finished projects with the residents, and has given those out when they’ve had gift exchanges,” says Rose Meldrum, executive director of the LaFontaine Center. “The residents are always thrilled to receive something home-made from Bernard. He’s very talented.”

Woenker’s creations are pictures of a variety of subjects, everything from wild animal close-ups to scenes from the Bible. His favorite is flowers. He is currently finishing up a large rug featuring a country cottage surrounded by colorful flowers, made from a multitude of colors in the bits of yarn he uses. The rug is already spoken for.

“I’m happy about that,” he says. “When different people come in to see that, they see all the different colors and they say, ‘Boy, you can really do something.’”
One resident even put in a special order for an eagle rug, something Woenker plans to make as soon as he finds the right kit.

He says his hobby is just something to do while he watches TV. But he also says it gives him a thrill — especially when his finished projects find a good home.