ST. CHARLES – Janet Hornbostel taught fourth and fifth grades at Richmond and Bell-Graham Elementary Schools in District 303 for 38 years.
But her students may be more likely to remember what she taught them after school: knitting.
Retired for six years, Hornbostel has Alzheimer’s. But she still knows how to knit. And when she saw the pictures of Ukrainian children fleeing the Russian invasion, her heart broke. So she knitted 18 teddy bears to send to them.
“Seeing these poor little kids, I feel like I can make their day a little bit better,” said Hornbostel.
Hornbostel’s bears are 25cm tall and stuffed with Poly-Fil royal silk fiber – “soft as butter”.
She uses a brand of thread called Encore, available from Wool & Coformerly St. Charles but now at 1687 N. Lancaster Road, South Elgin.
Hornbostel said her mother also has Alzheimer’s and she took her knitting students to her mother’s on Saturdays.
“They painted her nails and I took her out to lunch afterwards,” Hornbostel said.
Alzheimer’s appears to be a family disease, as Hornbostel’s brother and sister also have it, she said.
“It started for me after I retired – the forgetfulness,” said Hornbostel. “I don’t sweat about it. I don’t cry about it. … Some things come and some things go. It is what it is. I have a good support team here.”
Hornbostel relied on a friend, Jennifer Shanahan, who teaches first grade at Ferson Creek in St. Charles, to send the bears for Ukrainian refugee children to have.
Shanahan sent her to her friends Matthew and Sarah Tituswho are in Prague through missionaries Church on Chapel Street in genf. The couple are helping Ukrainian refugees find housing in Prague, Shanahan said.
“They have raised over $6,000 for families fleeing Ukraine,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan and Hornbostel have been friends for about 30 years, she said.
“I’ve known her since high school. My husband went to high school with their son and I taught in their building,” Shanahan said.
When Shanahan first sent the teddy bears to Prague, they cost $500. Then she used a vacuum cleaner to reduce the size of the package and the cost went down to $41.
Hornbostel, who was the 2002 Kane County Educator of the Year, continues to teach knitting at Graham-Bell on Mondays after school.
“As long as I can knit, it makes me happy,” said Hornbostel.
Free patterns to knit or crochet bears are available online, many through a craft site called Ravelry. A Wool & Company employee suggested: a free cardigan pattern bear this is available via Ravelry.