Listen Live

CHAMPLIN, Minn. – A 96-year-old U.S. Navy veteran wasn’t about to let idle hands conquer his giving spirit while the coronavirus pandemic kept him largely immobile in his Minnesota retirement community.

“Got to stay ahead of the Army,” Tom Cornish joked, explaining to KARE how and why he came to weave 400 winter hats for donation to the Salvation Army.

“If someone needs something, give it to them,” Cornish, a longtime volunteer for the international charitable organization, told the TV station.

“Volunteering does something to a person. You’re working for others,” he added.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

In turn, Cornish set a goal of completing one hat per day with his trusty hook and loom in his apartment at Champlin Shores in Minnesota. And not only has he resisted encouragement from his friends and neighbors to sell the hand-crafted headgear for a profit, he has also trained others at the retirement community to weave their own creations.

“That one woman, she made more than 35 hats,” Cornish told KARE with pride, without mentioning he typically doubles and sometimes triples his self-imposed daily goal.

“This is how he got to be 96 years old, because he’s helping everybody else. Everybody’s more important than he is, in his mind,” Jerry Cornish, the elder Cornish’s son, told the TV station.

>> Read more trending news

Cornish said he has been weaving for nearly two decades but only began doing so regularly about 18 months ago, following the death of his first wife, Lorraine, KSTP reported.

“Tom is such a remarkable man, and he makes the greatest hats for our programs,” Salvation Army Warehouse Manager Beth Koski told the TV station, noting Cornish is “always so pleased to give his hats to those in need.”

Cornish, who joined the Navy at 18 and served in the Pacific theater during World War II, often pauses from weaving to read from the bible that rests on a stand next to his easy chair, ensuring “the book’s messages are woven with the wool into Tom’s hats,” KARE reported.

“I feel like I’m working for the Lord and that’s a good feeling,” he said.

More coronavirus pandemic coverage:

>> Coronavirus vaccines: CDC separates myths from facts

>> Coronavirus: Should we be wearing two masks when we go out in public?

>> Coronavirus: How long between exposure to the virus and the start of symptoms?

>> What are your chances of coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19? This tool will tell you

>> Wash your masks: How to clean a cloth face covering

>> Fact check: Will masks lower the oxygen level, raise the carbon dioxide in your blood?

>> How to not let coronavirus pandemic fatigue set in, battle back if it does