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May/June 2023 -   -  

Quality Time with the ‘Quilt Lady’

A nationwide project that has awarded more than 340,000 quilts

Quilts of Valor are top-quality, handmade quilts, awarded in solemn ceremonies to service members and veterans who have been touched by war as recognition of their service and sacrifices in serving the nation.

It’s a simple idea, imbued with hope, which came to Catherine Roberts in 2003 in a dream. In it, she saw a young soldier, haunted by the demons of war, and then getting wrapped in a hand-made quilt and restored, almost miraculously, with vigor and life. To Roberts, whose son was deployed in Iraq at the time, the message was clear, and she soon started the Quilts of Valor program. The first quilt was presented to a young soldier from Minnesota at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in November that year.

Today, her Quilts of Valor Foundation is a growing, national organization headquartered in Winterset, Iowa, that works with thousands of volunteers who donate tens of thousands of hours of their time annually. The organization designs, produces, and presents quality, handmade Quilts of Valor to deserving veterans, service members, and even service animals. Since its inception, the Foundation has presented more than 340,000 quilts.

In a workroom in Denver full of finished quilts, Jan Weber said that the hardest part of the process is not so much making the quilts, but “finding veterans who deem themselves worthy of such an honor. They all say that there is certainly someone else who needs it more.”

Weber has presented, or “wrapped,” service members of all stripes, from generals to privates. Recently, she had the opportunity to wrap the oldest veteran the program has worked with, a 105-year-old West Point graduate.

A Quilt of Valor is presented only to a living recipient. So, to honor the crew members of the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans who died after being rammed by an Australian aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam in 1969, Weber created a special Memorial Quilt. All the names of the dead are hand-embroidered, each in their own square, on the quilt.

“I am only one of so many people involved in this mission,” she said, “and it truly is a mission for all of us, and I have been blessed to have the resources and the energy to do this. I’ve wrapped maybe 500 people over the years; they’re all my vets, and I love them all.

“The whole idea of a Quilt of Valor is one of comfort, solace, and peace for a vet or serviceperson, to offer that special feeling that comes with an item that is meant to be used, used, and used, not folded at the foot of a bed or shelved in a closet. These are items to be enjoyed daily, to let the comfort of the quilt help roll off the stress of the world around you.”

The organization’s website (https://www.qovf.org) contains information about local Quilt of Valor groups across the country, including how to contact them and the different ways to get involved in the Quilt of Valor program.





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Geoffrey Clifford Mark F. Erickson Chuck Forsman