Breaking News
More () »

Centralia senior makes 'forever' leis from ribbons

This 86-year-old spreads joy and stays young with a colorful hobby.

CENTRALIA, Wash. — Mellie Enos, 86, makes the world brighter one ribbon at a time. And she's grateful each time she completes another ribbon lei.

"I was so blessed to come to America," Enos said. "I've been here for 59 years. I've been a citizen since 1967. And I share my gift from God to everybody who wants to learn."

Enos was born in the Philippines; today she lives in Centralia. And in her expert hands, a plain piece of ribbon blooms into a flower and grows into a lei – a South Pacific gift that celebrates life.

"It's good for graduation and any other occasion where there are guests, maybe birthdays, Mother's Day, any holiday," Enos explained.

Enos' ribbon leis are as vibrant as any made of flowers. 

"My imagination just soars and when I look at the flower, I say, 'Oh, I can make this in ribbons or in yarns,'" she said.

 It can take her 12 hours to make just one.

"I'm very patient because we grew up very poor," Enos said. "We don't have all these things people here have. So my dream was to come to America and I did."

That might be why she transforms things most of us toss away into treasures. Scraps of yarn. Pistachio shells. They get a new life when Enos finds them. She showed us an elaborately crafted flower made from pistachio shells and baskets of flowers made of yarn, all made by her hands.

This master crafter was a high school language arts teacher in Manila, worked as a florist in Alaska and then learned to make ribbon leis at a senior center when she moved to Hawaii after retiring. She even wrote a book about it, "The Guide to Making Ribbon Lei," and she'll teach anyone who wants to learn.

She often gives her leis away. Make no mistake; she gets something out of it too. 

"Because when you give something special to a person, they appreciate you and I want to make friends all the time so I can tell my jokes," Enos said.

Enos memorizes jokes to keep her mind sharp. She has a whole library of joke books. She says it's far more fun than doing puzzles.

"And I also read that when you make a person smile or laugh that is a special gift to the person and it doesn't cost a penny," Enos said.

Something simple - transformed with effort, and intent. That seems to be Enos' special gift. A legacy of smiles and beauty that never fades. 

"These leis – they will last forever," she said.

Enos' leis will be available May 12 and 13 at the Girlfriends Vintage Market Spring Market at 3054 Carpenter Road at the Thurston County Fairgrounds. 


KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

Before You Leave, Check This Out