When Doris Wyatt was in third grade, she heard about soldiers in the war who needed blankets. So she and her schoolmates learned to knit for the war effort. The girls took their nine-inch drab wool squares to the American Red Cross headquarters for a woman there to stitch together and send overseas.
That was 1918, and it was the first World War. Today, Wyatt is 105, and she was honored in April 2014 as the first Featured Artist at Salina Presbyterian Manor’s Art is Ageless® exhibit.
Marketing Director Kim Fair was so taken by the variety of Wyatt’s artwork that she wanted to give her a special platform to share it. “A trip through her apartment is an adventure in artistic expression,” Fair said.
Wyatt consequently became the first featured artist at the 2014 Art is Ageless juried exhibit. Fair set up a display of Wyatt’s work, along with a comfortable chair for Wyatt to sit and chat with people about her creations. There are paintings, needlepoint and, of course, items she has knit. Her very first painting was a plaque that reads, “Save Water. Bathe with a Friend” that still hangs in her bathroom.
Wyatt isn’t making any more art these days, but she was a winner many times over in the Art is Ageless competition. “I don’t know how many times I entered, but usually I was in the calendar,” she said.
Wyatt has lived at Salina Presbyterian Manor for 20 years. She met her husband, Wendell, while they were growing up in Wellington. They both attended the University of Kansas and were married in 1931, just as the Great Depression began to take a toll.
Wendell decided to go back to school while she looked for a teaching job. “But that “M, R, S” wasn’t the degree I needed. They weren’t hiring married teachers,” Wyatt said. Eventually she found work in a millinery shop because the owner admired the handmade dress she wore. She earned $5 a week. Wendell later earned a master’s in public health at Harvard University.
The Wyatts raised two daughters, and she now has seven grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. After her daughters went to school, Wyatt finally did become a kindergarten teacher, a job she adored. “I had the children the first time they were away from home, and I kind of had to be Mama at first,” she said.
Today, Wyatt is a big Jayhawks fan, and her support was rewarded on her 104th birthday with an autographed picture of basketball coach Bill Self. When she wants to catch up with her family, she makes a Skype video call on her iPad. She’s a whiz at the Friday trivia game, but more than anything she loves the luxury of digging into a good book. “Now I sit and read, because I didn’t have time to all those years.”