Ernst W. Stark was an accountant for the Atomic Energy Commission.
He served in the military for seven years after graduating high school before going to college on the GI Bill. He spent three years in the horse artillery and time at Fort Benning and Fort Jackson. He was a navigator for a flight crew that performed rescue flights and once even shot down an enemy plane.
He was on the Japanese island Iwo Jima when the first atomic bomb was dropped.
“We didn’t even know it was dropped until we read it in Stars and Stripes,” Stark said.
Recently, he went on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
During a recent interview, he didn’t dwell too much on that part of his life. He did mention, in passing, seeing the sky full of bullets on the day the Japanese surrendered.
Instead, he wanted to talk about something that has become his life’s priority, something as different from war as night is from day.
Though nothing will replace his wife, Jeannette, who died in 1990 after 48 years of marriage, there are few things that have brought the 93-year-old World War II veteran more pride than the bag of material he spends hours a day turning into crochet.
“I go out and eat and that’s about it,” Stark said. “I use all of my free time to crochet.”
His hobby-turned-passion began 33 years ago after an appendectomy. He couldn’t drive for 6 weeks and got bored.
A neighbor introduced him to crocheting to pass the time.
Since then, he’s made lap robes for those living in nursing homes in Aiken, where he lived and worked before coming to the Grand Strand a few years ago.
“That was my contribution to the unhappy people,” Stark joked, noting that he’s now content in a nursing home himself, Eagle Crest, in Myrtle Beach.
He’s crocheted shawls for elderly women in wheelchairs.
He’s crocheted blankets emblazed with John 3:16 and “Shalom = Peace Be with You.”
He’s spent time piecing together wedding afghans, with the names of both spouses “primarily as a memory for them on the day they were married.”
He’s made scarves, including one for a friend who used it to keep her dog warm on cold mornings when they took walks.
His daughter-in-law works at a food bank and he’s made lap robes for some of the needy she serves.
He’s made Christmas stockings to the delight of his grandchildren and lap blankets for an appreciative Department of Veteran Affairs.
“Without your support, we could not provide for the smaller niceties that make hospitalizations more bearable,” the department told him in a letter.
“I’ve done several hundred of them,” Stark said. “I’ve enjoyed doing it. It makes people happy. It’s useful production. I don’t wast time doing it.”
Contact ISSAC J. BAILEY at 626-0357, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.com at @ijbailey or @TSN_IssacBailey.