Veterans' Honors Quilt Depicts Heroism Beyond Words

 


Aging and Disability Services staff Mary Pat O'Leary, Karen Messo, Jane Crum, and Lorraine Sanford display the quilt that honors veterans' heroism, character, and courage. Photos by ADS case manager Sarah Barkman.


 

Tears filled my eyes when first I saw the beautiful red, white and blue veteran's quilt with my late father's name written on it. Raymond Snow was a 21-year-old infantry sergeant with the army's 75th Division in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944–45, the coldest European winter in over a century. Dad didn't talk much about the war, but I remember vividly how he described the cold during the battle and how his foxhole buddy was killed by a German bullet.

The 70"x76" veteran's quilt includes the names and service information of others: Marko, Army Air Force, North African Campaign, 1942–45; Marion, Army Coast Artillery, Alaska and Europe, 1941–45; Emmanuel, Army Air Force, 1945–47; Joseph, Navy, DE 680, 1941–45; Lorraine, Army Aviation, 1975–81; Robert, 1944–1945. More names will be added.

The quilt was envisioned by Mary Pat O'Leary, Aging and Disability Services nurse and planner. "I wanted to honor our staff and family members who served in the military, and also recognize veterans and veteran spouses who have participated in PEARLS, the Program to Encourage Active and Rewarding Lives," she said. "My dad was a Marine in WWII and my uncles served in different branches of the service. From their stories I learned of heroism, character, and courage. Our veterans quilt represents the interconnectedness of our journeys and it honors our heroes and heroines who gave of themselves so that others may be free."

Mary Pat does not quilt but she knew that a co-worker, Jane Crum, produced beautiful quilts. After several meetings, Jane and another co-worker, friend and quilter, Karen Messo, began working on the quilt as volunteers—on their own time.

Karen told Jane she would be glad to volunteer to "piece" the quilt. Karen and Jane looked at many patriotic quilt patterns, and a "Quilts of Valor" approved pattern caught their eye. It was perfect for their plan to add names of veterans. After they agreed on pattern and fabric, Karen cut 676 pieces of fabric and began sewing the pieces together. It took her approximately 30 hours of precision sewing to piece the quilt top.

"I'm glad this quilt means so much to so many," said Karen. "My friends served in the Vietnam War. I have always thought that, somehow, I should create something for those veterans who returned home to find a somber and sometimes scorned reception."  

After the quilt top was completed, Jane began to design the quilting, which needed to enhance the beautiful piecing and coincide with the meaning behind the quilt. Jane explains that each quilt has its own personality and purpose. It is an artistic endeavor to design quilting lines that best suit the quilt.

Jane carefully hand-guided her machine to sew in every seam—securing the quilt top to the batting and backing, accenting the piecing pattern, and making the quilt strong. Although it was not elaborate quilting, Jane spent approximately 40 hours finishing the quilt. She reports that time doesn't matter when you are on a mission. This quilt spoke to her of the "strong, noble, beautiful, and powerful yet gentle men and women who have served and sacrificed for the cause of freedom."

The quilt radiates with stars. The furled ribbons of honor and waves of the flag depict "heroism beyond words" to Jane. She humbly calls it "The Veterans' Honors Quilt" and hopes the quilt expresses her gratitude for the bravery and commitment of millions of Americans who have served our country.

This group of dedicated volunteers will continue to meet to add veterans' names to the quilt, and to select a location where the quilt can be viewed by the public.

I still remember my first viewing of the quilt and how it powerfully evoked my emotions. The quilt includes my information: Paul Snow, 6th Battalion, 27th Artillery, Vietnam, 1966–68. Seeing my name reminded me of my 58,000 brothers and sisters who died in Vietnam, including classmates from South Kitsap High School's Class of 1965: Don, Darryl, Joe, and Steve. May all of them rest in peace.

One way I honor all veterans is my work as a PEARLS counselor with Aging and Disability Services (ADS), the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County. ADS received funding from the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy to reach out to and serve veterans throughout King County. PEARLS offers free, in-home counseling to veterans and their wives, domestic partners, and widows. Veterans ages 55 and older who are down, blue, or sad may be eligible for the program. PEARLS can help many older people become more socially and physically active, learn problem-solving skills, and experience more enjoyment in life.

To learn more about how PEARLS can help veterans, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/veterans. Veterans and their family members who wish to learn more about the veterans' quilt can contact me at paul.snow@seattle.gov or by calling 206-615-0533.

Article contributor Paul Snow tells his own story as a Vietnam veteran who has needed extra support in the digital story at left. At right, Lorraine Sanford, shown in first photo with the quilt, tells what it was like to be female in the military. Both are avid supporters of PEARLS for Veterans. To view, click on each image.