Inspired by the thoughtfulness extended to them during a difficult time, the Hague family pays it forward with lovingly crafted one-of-a-kind gifts.
Story and Photography by Kate Rogan
In 2015, Keith Hague, the owner and artisan at StoneHeartStudio in Norwell, was on a mission. He was determined to carve 32 heart-shaped stones for a group of very special recipients—pediatric patients in the cardiac care unit at Boston Children’s Hospital. Hague was no stranger to hospitals halls. He spent time there after his son, Harry, was born at 27 weeks, and years later when his wife, Angela, was in the ICU for a sudden illness. He empathized with the children and knew firsthand how heart stones could provide comfort to their families—a talisman of hope.
Hague remembers back to June 2009, when an undiagnosed case of strep caused his wife to go into septic shock. “She was critically ill overnight,” says Hague. “She had a 106-degree fever and was going downhill quickly.” Angela was transferred to the ICU in Boston and fell into a coma for nine days.
Hague’s children struggled with their mother’s absence. “Everyone was obviously paying attention to me,” says Angela. “It was Keith’s aunt Ruth who recognized that the kids really needed deep attention.” One day, Ruth brought the Hague children to Mattapoisett Town Beach and found a heart-shaped stone, which she presented to Angela’s daughter Isabel. Ruth told her to hold onto the stone and give it to Angela when she was better.
“The very first thing Isabel did when she visited her mom, was give her that stone,” says Hague. Thankfully, Angela fully recovered and continues to cherish the weathered, dove-gray heart stone—the original talisman.
Less than a year later, Hague was renovating the family’s 70s-style fireplace when he had a creative idea. Valentine’s Day was approaching and he decided to take a piece of excess stone from the construction project and carve a heart for his beloved.
“It was so thoughtful and beautiful,” says Angela. “Honestly, the first thing I said was ‘oh gosh, you need to create more!’” Encouraged by Angela’s support, Keith kept at it, turning his hobby into a side business, and StoneHeartStudio was born.
Hague begins by searching for stones to work with—they might be sourced from a local quarry, a Vermont riverbed, a South Shore beach or along the side of the road. He then sketches the rough outline of a heart on the surface of the stone.
“When I started out, my father, who is good with his hands, said to me, ‘you better get yourself a compressor and a diamond blade.’ So I got myself a compressor and a diamond blade,” says Keith, laughing. After cutting and shaping the stone, he meticulously smooths the surface, spending up to six hours on each piece. “That’s when the magic happens,” he says. “You never know what the rock will reveal.”
The carving process takes incredible patience and attention to detail. “We haven’t found anyone else who is doing similar work,” says Angela.
One of the most popular items sold at StoneHeartStudio is a Healing Stone—a smooth beach stone that comes with an inspiring quote. One such stone found its way to Chris Corso, whose 12-year-old son was in the cardiac care unit at Boston Children’s Hospital. Touched by the sentiment of the Healing Stone, Chris commissioned Keith to create 32 more stones—one for every little warrior in the hospital unit. Keith carved the stones and gifted them to the children.