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Loss Always Hurts

Today we received the sad news that we lost one of our QOH volunteers from the Antioch CA group, Mary Branscum. She was such a great supporter of QOH. I remember she met us in San Francisco for our first Honor Flight. I remember her smile and how happy she was to be a part of Quilts of Honor. I know Nancy, Susan, and all the gang will miss her. Blessings and prayers to her family. Our hearts weep as we lose those who have become part of the QOH family.

Please stay safe out there as these COVID numbers keep going up – We need all of you! We won’t be having Workshop until maybe Fall. It all depends on this mess. We do welcome visitors at the shop but we ask that you call first. Following California requirements, we encourage you to wear masks. We feel it is an individual choice. We can keep our 6ft social distance. We also ask that you not wear perfume as we have many that have allergies that can cause problems.

We gave out a Quilt this past week to a 10 year Army Veteran from the OIF era. Robert was such a fresh face to the shop. He was thrilled with his quilt and what we do. My sister, Diana, used to work with him. She tricked him to come to the shop and after he got his quilt, he took all kinds of pictures to show his 86 year old grandmother who he is taking care of during COVID. Now that is a good veteran. Joyce, Flo, Carol, Laurie, and Mom and Dad all said what a gift to give to that young man. We all said we felt so good to be a little normal.

To all our Chapters out there – be safe – we need you all. We enjoy seeing your quilts that you present.

God’s Blessings,
Gail

 

Navy Day at Graeagle.

Friday – I always love Fridays during the summer. Flo and I try to take off to Truckee, CA where we have a permanent campsite so when an opportunity came up to present a couple of quilts, I was in.

I know many of our QOH Family has heard me talk about Margaret Peters often. She was my friend and my mentor in quilting. I was close with her husband, Volney Peters, better known as Pete to all. They have both passed and I really miss them. When their daughter contacted me to come and award 2 quilts in their small town I thought Margaret would want me too and reconnecting with Mary and Chris would be great. Chris was a Navy Corpsman and I had given him a quilt years ago.

So, off we went. We stopped at camp first then hit the road for Graeagle down Hwy 89 – such a beautiful ride. I have to say, California has some of the most precious sites. The town of Graeagle is smaller than Valley Springs. One family owns most of the buildings. It is so cute. Mary and Chris live in one of the original homes. It’s a log cabin over 100 years old – way cool. Mary’s craft room was to die for. She is definitely her mother’s daughter.

Their next door neighbor was where we were going to award the quilts. We walked over to meet them and I was in the presence of three Navy guys – think I was outnumbered.

Our first quilt went to a WWII Navy veteran who is 100 years old and still lives alone. His name is Jack Sr. He retired from the Navy as a Captain. The second quilt went to Jack Jr. who also retired from the Navy. When I went up to shake his hand I said, “Jr., it’s your turn,” and Jack Sr. laughed at me calling his son Jr.  Jack Sr. said to make sure he had the address so he could thank you all. He said he wished it was winter so he could use his quilt. It was pretty neat to give to a father and son. Both were so proud of being in the Navy plus being 100 years old and Jack Sr. didn’t even look or act 100. They said after we left he was overwhelmed and he did end up going to the hospital as he got dehydrated – that sure scared us. It was pretty warm and they aren’t used to that up there.

We went back to Mary and Chris’s where we had BBQ steak for dinner – it was delicious. They have two dogs, Jake and Murphy, which kept Rue and us entertained and wanting to be petted. We had a great evening and it was so great to connect with Mary and Chris. I felt like her parents were looking down on us. We will go back soon as they have Eagles there and lots of lakes. I can’t wait.

It was great to out and feel like normal, except for face masks everywhere, but to honor our veterans in person is awesome.

God’s blessing
Gail

Tuesday, because of Covid19, we did an unusual Reunion. We had the Commander (George) of the Legion of Valor Organization and his wife, Susan, come to Valley Springs to oversee the shipment of 23 quilts to their members.

To be a member of this Organization you have to have been awarded the top medal of your Branch of Service. Most of who we gave out quilts to had received the Navy Cross or Distinguished Service Medal – they are all true heroes. We were so sorry not to be able to shake their hands in person but I know when they receive those quilts they will know what they mean.

We truly enjoyed George and Susan.  Here is a little background: George, nice guy, saved his Unit in combat as a First Lt. in the USMC and retired as a Lt. Col.  Susan went in USMC active, and later the reserves then retired as a 2 Star General but the best part was she was the first woman in the FBI Academy in 1972. Now that is pretty darn awesome. Dad Belmont was in second heaven as he had two Marines to talk to and Susan was actually at the FBI Academy the same time as Dad – small world.

We had the best crew helping us. Diana, Joyce and Rene double checked quality control on all the quilts. Jan, Flo and Willene got all the quilts ready, boxed and labeled. We took lots of photos and one photo you will see Rene and Joyce photo bombing. We meant to get a group picture but time got away or it was the old age brain forgetting.

It was a very special day and as I write this I bet somewhere a veteran is opening his box wondering, what is this. I can almost see the smile and tears on his face.

We were lucky enough to present George and Susan their quilts in person. Susan said we were going to make her cry and then “uhs and ohs” as she looked at it. When George received his quilt, he looked at me and said, “This is my honor to receive this beautiful gift.”

I made a “casserole surprise,” you never know what’s in it until you eat it. It keeps them guessing, too. We had homemade pie, too, so what a day. It almost felt like we weren’t in Covid19. Enjoy the pictures.

We have been receiving copies of quilt labels from our QOH Chapters so they are trying to get back to some kind of normal – Nebraska, Missouri and Minnesota all started working. So, slowly we are honoring our veterans.

We are very blessed to be able to continue our Mission in this worldly mess. I pray you all stay healthy and keep on stitching.

This weekend Flo and I will head to the mountains for Retreat where we will present a couple of quilts so stay tuned for that adventure, oh and Rue, too.

God’s blessings
Gail

It has been hard to write the Blog this year. Usually, I am not at a loss for words but this year, 2020, has been a tough year for everyone especially for those families that have lost a loved one.

Marilee was one of our Quilts of Honor volunteers but as I often say a member of our Quilt of Honor Family. We last saw Marilee at Christmas. Little did we know she had a brain tumor and as her husband, Gary said, within three months she was gone. We lost Marilee in March but could not have her Memorial because of COVID. We still had to limit how many people could attend. I know that Church would have been packed. Those who did attend showed the family what Marilee meant to them.

I was asked to speak and I wondered if I would say the right things. I told how Marilee always laughed at me naming the quilt patterns on Workshop day. She would either correct me or tell all the volunteers, “Yup, that’s the name.” She always had my back. When I do speak I often say God gives me the words and strength and I usually never remember what I have said. Rue, my Service Dog, was by me side and she sensed everyone’s mood. When I came back to my chair she stood up on me and gave me a hug. I really think it was Marilee’s hug as she never left QOH without giving me a hug. She also loved Rue.

As we were riding home (Flo and Joyce rode with me) Flo tells me I did a good job speaking. I asked, “Did I say Pee in church” and Flo says yes. I said “OMG, I shouldn’t have said that.” Flo said I only spoke from my heart. So here is what I said: Marilee and Dolores are my DAR Sisters and a few years back I received an award at the BIG Banquet – over 1,500 people all dressed in their best. They took us to this huge room then, bang, they shut all the doors and locked them. I turned to Marilee and asked her how are we supposed to go pee. Marilee started laughing and told me that at the break they unlock the doors. Now, why would I think of that? Everyone laughed. I surely won’t forget but I know Marilee was looking down laughing, too.

I was honored and proud to be a part of her celebration. Her quilt talents were great. Her smile and hugs were huge. She will be missed by many.

Many of our Chapters are starting to open up and award quilts. Wisconsin and Nebraska have both been busy.

We won’t have a Workshop again this month as some are still staying in. My hope is July for our next Workshop.

We miss everyone and are thankful for all the quilt tops we have been receiving. I must say, they are some of you-all’s best work.

Please try and stay well until we meet again.

God’s Blessings to the Heaston family. RIP Marilee

Gail

Memorial Day 2020

I am sure most of us will remember this Memorial Day just like the last few months. We will remember that today is the day we are to remember all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. I have played taps more times than I can remember.  Today will be different because of Covid19 but we will not forget. So, I will play with 2200 other trumpets and buglers playing in their front and backyards to honor our fallen. We are playing with Taps for Veterans, a non-profit that helps find live buglers for veterans. It is an honor to be a part of this organization that also provides for veterans.

If you have a minute, at 3:00 pm please pause to remember as I play the 24 Notes of Taps. I will remember and be thankful.

Check out our backyard. Not everyone has a life size Statue of Liberty. Praying that our days will get better. Keep on stitching – we will soon be together to share our love of quilting and for our veterans.

Blessings,
Gail

(Stay tuned for video of taps)

Boy, has all of our lives changed through Covid-19. Here we were just being our normal selves, what we called normal, and boom everything went crazy.

We are still getting pieced tops in weekly so our ladies are working as much as they can tolerate when trying not to listen to the news which is so depressing.

Many of our Chapters are making masks as the need is so great. We are keeping track of where our masks go and how many we are making. We have volunteers who don’t sew helping us, giving them something to help with in this crisis. We don’t ask anything for our masks. We just tell them to remember us in their donations sometime. This would have been a great time to design quilts but here we are making masks. Flo, Mom, Dad, Diana, Jeanine, Stacy, Willene, Carol and Laurie have been helping pretty much daily. Rita, Vera, Joan and Nadia are helping from home. Mary W. gets her Sew Sisters going and Della has her family making masks – love how all these quilters come together to help others. We have given to Stockton VA, the 377th Army Unit on the front lines, to Officers on the front lines, Hospital nurses and Hospice. To me, it is an honor to provide for all who need so for now we will keep making masks.

We have received a few Quilt Labels from Chapters who have given one or two quilts. We have been mailing an average of 10 quilts out weekly from Headquarters. When everyone does start up again, we may have to change how we present. Here, where we live, when we go out in public we wear a mask but shaking hands has gone by the way side.

So what have I done while everyone has the weight of the world on their shoulders? I’ve mended real fences, we do live in the country, painted fences, fixed gates, worked in the yard and planted my garden. During the week I’m in the shop Longarming as I am the only one while we all cope with this virus. My breaks have been running Flo or the folks to the Doctor which is an experience in itself.

We miss everyone and not having workshop or sew days has been a bummer. We are blessed to have Jan and Willene come on Tuesdays to do mailing and Admin. They both shelter by themselves so we all feel safe also to get them out and they have to survive my cooking.

We are wondering how many of you would be interested in doing Zoom. We would all log into our computers and could see each other and talk. I don’t want us to lose our Quilts of Honor Family. What we do for our veterans will not stop. We may have to change but we all know how important these quilts are to our veterans. Just last week I received an email from a veteran who had gotten his quilt at the Moving Vietnam Wall in 2017. He wanted to say how much it means to him every time he looks at it, now more than ever.

Didn’t mean to write a book but wanted to keep in touch with all of you. Don’t forget about our QOH Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/134434059904991/?ref=bookmarks ). We are going to start posting more quilts for all to see.

If you feel inclined, please let us know how you all are doing – drop us a line.  My heart is with each of you.

God’s Blessings

Gail

 

This Easter will be so different for everyone in the United States and one I am sure we will never forget. I bet this is how they felt in WWII with running out of supplies. We don’t have a curfew at night but we are basically home-bound.

It is not easy for many and can cause depression. I hope you all know that you can call QOH. We are here for every one of you. Sew a top and think how there are a lot of our military who are on the front lines right now helping in hospitals. Let’s pray they don’t get sick.

I know many of you are doing your part by sewing face masks. Sewers have come together from all over to make face masks. I am proud of our QOH ladies who have made so many. I know here at Headquarters I am still quilting but Flo is sewing masks like crazy as everyone keeps calling wanting big numbers of face masks.

We still have been mailing out 8-10 quilts a week all across the U.S. so we are still busy. I am blessed that I can walk into the Shop and quilt to keep my spirits up and it also helps me be thankful for what we do.

I wish each one of you a Happy Easter. I pray each of you stay well and that someday soon we will be together again.

God’s Blessings
Gail

 

A Busy December

December started with the Legion of Valor Christmas Party on December 7th, a day that will never be forgotten. It is one more day veterans fought for our freedom. Sometimes I often wonder why our veterans are only thought about on special days instead of all year long. We honored 8 veterans with quilts. Our first two were Purple Heart recipients, both very taken by their quilts. Our last was for Denny, a Vietnam veteran. He wanted to give his quilt to a veteran he had been visiting in a VA home and had no family. We told him we would get him a quilt that he could give to his friend.

Quilts of Honor is always thinking of our veterans. I have watched as our QOH Chapters go the extra mile to get their quilts to the veterans, some driving miles just to make sure they honor the veteran. That is dedication and passion for our veterans. I am so proud of all of our QOH Chapters.

On December 10th, we went to the Lions Club to honor two veterans, both Operation Enduring Freedom. We had been trying to award the first quilt for over 2 years and never gave up, a Marine who now manages a bank. Our second quit recipient was for a veteran injured by an EOD blast. He has had over 18 surgeries on his head and has lost his eye but he has the best attitude. He told us his girlfriend stood by him through it all. They got married while he was having surgeries so she would be able to help him. They have been together 11 years and have 2 children. After he received his quilt he came up and said, “I have all kinds of medals but this quilt is the best.” Our last quilt of the night went to a Vietnam veteran no one knew or had put him in for one. We had an extra quilt in the truck so Flo fixed it up and we surprised him and all the guys when we called his name. He fought back tears big time. After the presentations, they passed the hat and we received over $1,700 – what a great night! The Linden Lions rock.

Then it was time for my VA appointment where I gave a female a quilt – she loved it. We then drove to Berkeley to present a quilt to a Gulf War veteran. I knew about this veteran for a couple of years and wanted to reach out. AnnMarie, my friend from Virginia, had reached out to him and called me and said let’s meet there and you can give him a quilt. So, AnnMarie, Tiffany and Jimmers drove straight from the airport and we met them at Ehren’s house in Berkeley. Man, how crazy are the roads in Berkeley. Every time we turned around there was another roundabout or one way street. Almost drove me crazy getting there.

We finally arrived and Ehren had no idea who we were or why we were there. Ehren had been featured in Craft in America, a special called SERVICE, in 2014. I was in the same special. Since that time I have always wanted to meet Ehren. He makes pottery mugs and expresses what he feels in his pottery and it helps his PTSD. He then gives the mugs to veterans or those suffering from PTSD. He has given over 22,000 mugs.

The first thing we did as we got in the door, was to award Ehren his quilt. He said that he had heard about the quilts but never thought he would get one. Ehren, a Marine from the Gulf War, said he didn’t come back the same and he wanted to make a difference. He had mugs already made and told me to pick out one, please take one. They were all different and you could tell they each had a story. Ehren lives right in the middle of Berkeley but his backyard was a garden that looked like a jungle – enjoy the pictures.

We got home that night by GPS and Waze taking us on the backroads through Berkeley. Boy, was that an experience. We received texts all the way home – “thank you for the quilt; It’s beautiful; everyone loves it.” It was a great night. We got to meet up with friends from Virginia and award a quilt.

We had our December Workshop and Christmas luncheon on the 18th. 47 volunteers attended and shared what they were thankful for this Christmas. It was pretty special as they always ended with how special Quilts of Honor is to them. Bonnie stood up and asked the volunteers to take up a donation for QOH and for all Gail give us. They passed a hat and by the time the day was done, they had collected over $1,000. This, to me, was a Christmas Miracle. The love of the group and the sharing, I can still see their faces as they shared. I am so proud of our QOH Family.

The month of December was very special but then again, every month is special with Quilts of Honor. Our volunteers are one of a kind with great passion for our veterans.   Thank you to everyone who support us in any way.

Merry Christmas and God’s blessings,

Gail

 

November – Veterans Month

We began our month of November at 0-dark-30 heading to Walnut Creek to the Berean Christian High School. For those of you who don’t live in California, Valley Springs is a small community in the foothills. We are considered country folks so driving to Walnut Creek in the Bay Area traffic, getting up at 0-dark-30 no one enjoys that part, but we do it for our veterans.

We arrived at the School, signed in at the office and the office lady said they were having quite a few visitors because of us and welcome back. We have gone to Berean Christian High School for many years. It was Quilts of Honor that helped them learn to make quilt tops and honor our veterans. Carol, a family friend, met Flo and I and became part of the QOH team. She took pictures for us so Flo cold help feed the quilts as the students carried them to center stage. Carol also works at Berean. The ceremony is always held in the Gym which is beautiful. They call it chapel and all the students attend. This year Craig Lee was master of ceremonies. We started with God Bless America sung by one of their own then we all sang. It is always inspirational with the veterans all sitting in their chairs not even knowing what is going on. They came because a daughter, son, grandson or granddaughter wanted to honor them. Quilts of Honor was their surprise and this year we had some veterans that didn’t qualify for a quilt so we called them up front and pinned a Veterans Pin on their collar. Both veterans thanked us for the honor of being there.

Craig called each veteran up. Our first was an Air Force female veteran. Boy was she shocked and once she received her quilt she never stopped talking about her time in service which she had not done before. Each veteran had a great story. One even served in an Army Band but he played clarinet. He said he was asked to play taps on his clarinet as there were so many killed in action. He said he saw how many times the buglers were called during Vietnam. One of the Navy veterans brought his uniform for the students to see and said he was 8 inches too big to fit into it – they sure laughed at that.

The last veteran was 98 years old, WWII veteran, who served on a Tin Can Destroyer as he described it. They were hit numerous times in the Pacific by the Japanese. They lost 150 men and kept the boat afloat by stuffing their mattresses in holes and throwing what they could overboard. It was amazing to stand there and listen to him – what a hero. I can’t even believe all these years he has lived and tells his story. When I gave him his quilt he said it was the nicest present. When I took his arm to walk off I felt proud to be with him.

It was a great ceremony and we ended with one of the female teachers singing the National Anthem. She was going out on maternity leave and boy was it good. We ended up awarding 7 quilts and 2 veteran pins. It was also nice that three of the quilts presented were from the school itself. When we finished, of course we had to stop and shop. Flo spotted a Patriotic Nutcracker in the store window and is now sitting in the Barn so we can enjoy it.

We had a couple of days in the Shop to get ready for Veteran Honors in Valley Springs. The Rotary Club of West Calaveras was having a chicken BBQ ribs dinner. They asked if Quilts of Honor would be a part of it. I said sure and asked if there would be veterans to present. Gary said he would see if he could find some. In the meantime, my veteran brother, Mike, calls and said he has a friend he had gotten to know who has a Purple Heart and could we get him a quilt. I told him to bring him to dinner, so he got Warren and his wife to dinner so we could surprise him.

Then Gary calls, “Gail I got one Vietnam veteran who has played Santa Claus in our Christmas parade for 22 years.” I knew Jeff and was excited for him. So, we had two – not bad for last minute. Flo got the quilts ready and we always take extras. We got to dinner and there was 14 of us. We had two tables. I was at one end of the table and Diana, my sister, had asked two friends. Margaret sat next to me and as everyone was talking, Judy said that Margaret was a veteran. I asked Margaret when and where she had served. She said she had been in the Army for 10 years. I asked her why she didn’t tell people that she was a veteran and she said she hadn’t put in as much time as others. So, guess what. Her name went on one of our extra quilts. You should have seen her face when Gary called her name. When she sat down with that quilt she kept hugging it and said that she was redoing her whole house and the quilt was amazing. I told her to start telling people that she was a veteran.

Then came Warren, Purple Heart recipient. His wife was crying, his buddy was crying when he got his quilt and when I looked over at him at the table he was hugging that quilt.

The 3rd quilt was another Vietnam veteran. Gary asked him about his service, he was speechless but what a smile.

The last was Jeff, Santa Claus, Vietnam veteran. When I went to shake his hand he said, “Oh no, you’re not getting away that easy.” He grabbed the mic and said: You know what this lady has done all over the states. She goes giving these quilts. Then he broke down, said it was an honor to have one, starts crying, grabs me and hugs me.

What 4 great deserving veterans.

Just when I’m so glad my part is over and I’m walking back to the table, I hear my name – Come back up front. So I get up there and Gary, master of ceremonies, and also a Supervisor in District 1, says, “We are honoring two special veterans tonight for Service Above Self for the benefit of veterans.” I was awarded a plaque along with my fellow veteran, Guy, Silver Paws non-profit, who trained Rue my Service Dog.

So, what a night. I will say I don’t like being honored. I don’t do it for that but being in my own home town, this was pretty cool. Thank you Rotary of Calaveras for the honors.

We have been receiving lots of label copies from our Chapters in other states – they are busy as Veterans Week is always crazy.

Tonight I will attend the Marine Ball which has become a tradition with our family – my Dad is a Marine. I will also award a quilt tonight so this should be interesting. I will be in my Army uniform and honor a Marine.

Stay tuned for more to come as we all move through Veterans month. I know that Veterans Day, to me, is like a birthday. I love that we can go and eat free or go to a parade which I have done since I got out of the service. They have made it a good day for so many veterans that deserve it.

God bless all our veterans and all those who are still serving. To my WAC Band Sisters and one brother – May you have the best Veterans Day and I will see you in October 2020.

Blessings,
Gail

Day 8 – Journey Home

Before we left Branson we went to the next door neighbor’s and gave him a quilt for his best buddy, a Navy Seabee from Vietnam. So, even when I walk Rue and I make friends and find veterans.

We started from Branson at 8:15am – we wanted to make sure we wouldn’t miss our plane. We stopped for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel about half way there. Gotta keep the crew happy and empty stomachs aren’t good.

When we got closer to Tulsa we stopped at the Hard Rock Café. It is huge and they are building on. We gave ourselves 30 minutes and Flo was lucky enough to bring home an extra $25. The whole crew came home with extra suit cases so what does that tell you.

When we got to Las Vegas, our connecting flight, we had to check in with the gate so they could see Rue. We had on our QOH sweatshirts and the gatekeeper asked what we were all about. The girls gave him the speech and he said all six of you can go on. We felt, like wow. We even all got to sit together. When we were getting ready to leave, the stewardess said, “We have some special people on board, Quilts of Honor.” Everyone on the plane clapped. We felt so honored. We had one empty seat by us and a lady sat next to Flo and asks what we were about. Flo tells her and she turned out to be an Air Force Veteran. Even more cool is that she helped found the Women Military Aviators. Only could happen to us.

My crew, I hope, had a good time, along with working, we did try to see the sights. The 7 of us were in that big house but it all worked out because we are a family. Rick was always there to make sure all his women were ok. Carl made the coffee every morning. We all got into a routine. Thank you Rick, Val, Debbie, Rita, Flo and Carl for always having my back. Love you guys.

To all of our Quilts of Honor Family, you all deserve a big hand for helping us to continue our mission. It takes an Army!!

Until our next adventure, stay tuned . . . . . . . . . .

God’s Blessings,
Gail