The Last Supper created in crochet

Published 1:28 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

On the second floor of the Shelby County Museum in Columbiana is an exquisite crochet “painting” of The Last Supper of Jesus.

The artist was Nellie Estelle Maxwell, born on April 1, 1919. Maxwell grew up in Mill Town (Siliuria).

She was the oldest of eight children and grew up in a hardworking, modest household. Maxwell went to work after only completing the 10th grade.

At 22, she married Cecil Leon Hodgens and moved to Chelsea in a home her husband built. It was an extended family household.

Hodgens’ in-laws, her husband’s aunt and their four children — Patricia Ann Hodgens Britt, Sarah Hodgens Atchison, Elizabeth Hodgens and Cecil Leon Hodgens Jr. — all lived in the small house between U. S. Highway 11 and U. S. Highway 36.

Hodgens was a sincere, devoted Christian who loved to read the Bible. She read the Bible every morning and read it in completion more than once each year.

She taught its stories and its principles to her children and her grandchildren.

Her most proud achievement was the completion of a Bible School course of study.

Hodgens taught herself to sew, to knit, to can, to preserve food and to cook nutritious meals for her family, who always sat together for meals. She taught herself to crochet, which became her outlet for her artistic creativity.

“She was an extremely hard worker and was of strong stock,” said her daughter Elizabeth. “She made circumstances of difficulties work for her family.

She did not always express her nurturing emotions verbally, but expressed them in deed.”

Her daughter Sarah said, “She was a very motivated, focused lady of high standards. She was a wonderful mother.”

One of her expressions of love to her family was the creation of heirlooms made by her hands.

For each of her children she crocheted tablecloths and sewed homemade quilts. She was a perfectionist in her needlecraft and never allowed a mistake, but started over till each piece was perfect.

Shelby County is honored to have Hodgens’ The Last Supper, a gift from her children to the Shelby County Museum. It is a breathtaking, spiritual work of art. April 9 is Maundy Thursday, the day Christians remember Christ’s Last Supper.

Go see The Last Supper and be inspired this Holy Week.

Columnist Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by e–mail at