Merton woman makes mittens to help ease pain
Losing a loved one is always difficult, but Jennifer Mongin hopes to ease the pain a bit for others through her keepsake enterprise, Remember Me Mittens.
A young wife with three small children, Jennifer lost her husband, Ross, to cancer in 2009 when he was only 36. First diagnosed with Stage 2 bladder cancer in 2007, he endured a plethora of treatments as the cancer returned again and again in different parts of his body, until it took his life on New Year's Eve.
"He was a big man and such a fighter," Jennifer recalled. "Each time he got sick, he said he was going to beat it."
Jennifer and Ross had known each other since they were 10 years old growing up in Ohio. Jennifer's parents had a summer place near Osceola where her mother had grown up, so she had made frequent trips to the Badger State. When her husband was offered a job at Harley-Davidson shortly after they married, Jennifer felt she was moving to a familiar place, as they made their home in the Village of Merton. They soon had a family: Andrew, now 10; Kaitlyn, 7; and Madeleine, 5.
One day in the traumatic month after Ross's death, Jennifer was sitting in his closet wondering what to do with his clothes; it didn't seem right to just throw them away.
"I'm a practical person," says Jennifer. "I was looking at his sweaters and had this inspiration to make a pair of mittens from one of them to remember him by."
She designed and sewed a fleece-lined pair for herself, and then made mittens for each of her children. Next, she made mittens for all of Ross's family members.
"Making the mittens helped me heal and move on," said Jennifer. "Because of what it meant to me and the kids, I knew his family would like them."
Word of Jennifer's mittens soon spread, and she began to get requests to make mittens for others who had lost a family member.
"My mother-in-law had a friend at church who had lost his wife," she tells of her first requests. "I made mittens for him and his children from two of his wife's scarves, which his mother had crocheted for her."
A local funeral home has also promoted Jennifer's mittens to its clients as a meaningful reminder of those they love.
"I love doing this," said Jennifer. "It really helps me because I know it helps someone else cope with their loss." She also has plans to reach out to hospice organizations and other groups with her mittens.
The overwhelmingly positive response Jennifer has received for her mittens has encouraged her to launch a small business, Remember Me Mittens, with the name based on her husband's initials. Customers can provide a personal sweater or scarf (however, for the fabric to "felt" properly, it must be at least 70 percent real wool.) Jennifer also accepts donations of wool sweaters for backings and other parts of the mittens. Although Jennifer's mittens are primarily meant as keepsakes of those who have passed away, she is also open to other ideas.
"I recently had a woman ask if I would make matching mittens out of her daughter's corduroy baby dress," she says. "She wanted to have a remembrance of her daughter's childhood."
Though helping others has been part of Jennifer's own healing process, she is quick to also give credit to her faith.
God has walked me through all this," she said. "I know I went through a terrible time, but it could have been much worse without God. I feel that I'm doing what God intended me to do by sharing my gifts."
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