Land of 10,000 Stories: Red Wing's 87-year-old angel

RED WING, Minn. - When Red Wing turns to the dark side of the earth, a light comes on inside Nada Peters.

"It's a nice time," says Nada as she sits on her couch - bathed by soft light - working on her cross stitch as evening turns to night. "I don't get tired," she says.

So much Nada has seen in the 87 years since her birth in Yugoslavia, since her introduction to a visiting 50-year-old Minnesota bachelor whom she would wed two weeks later.

"I said why not, I'll go to America." And so she did, learning English by watching television.

Tonight she toils on a cross stitch of a European monastery she used to visit with her family as a girl. She will work from just after dinnertime until midnight. Then she'll do it again the next night. And the night after that.

She looks the cross stitch in her lap. "I thought, 'gee, I better make one picture of something back home,' and I thought 'Maybe I'll send it to one of my brothers.'"

Four months of work and Nada is certainly entitled to keep a cross-stitch for herself. Not a chance.

Nada lives to give away the work she spends months sewing. A cross stitch of the Holy Family now hangs in Nada's church, Christ Episcopal in Red Wing. Nada worked on it every night for a year.

"I don't have the money to give too much money to the church, but God gave me the gift so I thought I'd do something. I believe in God, I believe in Christ. I thank God everyday for everything."

Standing just four-foot-ten, Nada has taken on God's work.

"Yeah, it's incredible, it really is," says Bob Exner. Bob and his wife Renae were still grieving the death of their 19-year-old son, when the stitched portrait arrived from a woman they didn't know.

"I felt sorry because they lost a boy, young boy," explains Nada.

Harry Exner was a few months into college in Colorado, when he stepped, accidentally, in front of a light rail train.

Told of the Exner's loss, Nada worked through the night for four months to make a portrait of a boy she'd never met. "But I said prayers for him, you know what I mean. So God can take him and take care of him."

"She's just a magical person," says Renae Exner.

The kind of person who earned the hugs she received this week, when some of her gifts came back to the Jordan Towers, for a little showing at the senior community where Nada lives.

Nada reserves a special hug for Tom Blee, the surgeon she credits for saving her life when she had colon cancer several years ago.

"God bless you, I say prayer all the time," she tells him. She spent four months sewing a cross stitch of Blee's two sons, which she then gave to her surgeon as a surprise thank you gift.

"I can fix people," Blee tells her, "but you heal people."

The night belongs to a woman still up when Jay Leno is lights out -- holding tight to a needle and her belief: "Everybody's got something to give."

Sleep well Red Wing, the angel in your midst is still awake.


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