Greta Mae Hedgcock didn't have much growing up in Michigan.
"I didn't have many dolls as a little girl because during the Depression kids had to do without toys," she said in a 1979 interview with the Arizona Daily Star.
So Hedgcock started making dolls from corn silk and clothespins. It's a hobby she never outgrew. As an adult living in the Old Pueblo, Hedgcock made cloth dolls and porcelains. She opened Greta's Doll Nook in 1979 and started the Tucson Doll Guild in the early 1980s.
"She always wanted to have a little doll shop and then it branched out into having kilns and pouring porcelain molds," said longtime friend and Doll Guild member Cleo Stolberg.
"I took my first doll-making class at her shop and I've been making them ever since, and that's been 20-some years."
In September at the Regional conference of the United Federation of Doll Clubs, in Tucson, local guild members will honor Hedgcock by displaying her wedding portrait, wedding dress and other mementos in keeping with the theme of the show: the Western bride.
It will be a tribute to a woman who found her passion early on and shared her enthusiasm with thousands throughout her life. Hedgcock died March 2 at age 80 of a heart attack.
Friend Doris Young shared Hedgcock's interest in dolls.
"I met her back in 1980 and she then had a very tiny little shop in the DeGrazia art studio on Campbell," Young said.
"I saw a sign one day and stopped to talk with her and she had her little sewing machine set up and her dolls on display."
Stolberg said Hedgcock "started out loving the cloth dolls and she made some pretty clever ones" but moved on to replicas of antique porcelain dolls.
"She got us all hooked to the collecting and making of dolls," said Doll Guild member Georgia Valdez.
Hedgcock got her husband, Robert, involved, too, in the porcelain-doll-making process.
"He'd be pouring bodies for her while we were painting heads," Valdez said.
Robert Hedgcock, who taught industrial arts at Tucson High School, made doll furniture for his wife's store and helped out in the doll shop, son Chip Hedgcock said.
Hedgcock's children appreciated their mother's talent for doll-making but never became aficionados themselves.
"We loved the dolls she made, but none of us carry her enthusiasm for dolls, much to her dismay," daughter Karin Kelly said.
Once Hedgcock started making porcelains, her son said, "there were some she would say looked like us, but she didn't purposely make them to look like us."
Greta's Doll Nook and the dolls his mother made were popular, he said.
"She was very good at it and, locally anyway, she was famous," Chip Hedgcock said. "She taught many students who went through her store and took doll-making classes."
After a few years of helping in the shop, Robert Hedgcock was ready to spend his retirement in a rural setting. He and his wife moved to Pearce, southeast of Tucson, but Greta remained active in the Doll Guild and in giving doll-making classes.
Her husband died in December and Hedgcock had planned to move back to Tucson, Doll Guild members said, but she died before she could return.
"Her passing has really affected a lot of us," Valdez said. "We miss her so much."
This feature chronicles the lives of recently deceased Tucsonans. Some were well-known across the community. Others had an impact on a smaller sphere of friends, family and acquaintances. Many of these people led interesting — and sometimes extraordinary — lives with little or no fanfare. Now you'll hear their stories.
"Life Stories" will be kept online at go.azstarnet.com/lifestories.