Stitched with love of country

By Eric Stevick

Herald Writer

LYNNWOOD — Sixty years after the first stitches were sewn, Laurel Hendrix tries to envision the seamstress of the unfinished quilt.

The elementary school teacher remembers the day in the mid-1970s when her mom brought the large square fabric home from a California thrift shop and draped it over the coffee table in their Pasadena home.

To Hendrix, who was 12 or 13 at the time, the intricate needlework was a marvel.

Unfurled before her that day was an American flag with 48 stars. Safety pinned to its corner was a slip of paper with the name of the seamstress written in a shaky hand and the date that she had begun the project — Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

It was, her mother explained, a project that needed finishing.

Six decades later, it finally is, thanks to the help of students and their families at the Maplewood Co-op School in Lynnwood, where Hendrix teaches. It has become a tribute to American veterans.

What started out as the inspired toil of one set of hands has been finished through the labor of dozens.

In August, Hendrix decided the quilt, which sat for years untouched, could be part of a Veterans Day lesson for the first- and second-graders in her Edmonds School District classroom.

On Sept. 11, the day terrorists attacked the United States, the quilt took on a new meaning. Hendrix thought of the unknown seamstress whose catharsis was the cloth.

"I finally knew how she felt," she said. "I got it. I understood the importance of it."

Today, the flag is surrounded by 80 squares representing the lives of scores of American military veterans through the eyes of their children and grandchildren at the Maplewood Co-op, a kindergarten through eighth-grade campus where parents agree to work 90 hours a year in the classroom.

To Hendrix, it was almost as though the quilt had been waiting to be completed at the right time, when it would be meaningful to so many people.

She redesigned it, expanding the dimensions from 50 to 80 squares. Squares now represent veterans from the Revolutionary War through the Persian Gulf War. Hendrix was inundated with requests for squares.

"I thought it was really special because it made me remember Grandpa," said Eric Norton, a second-grader whose grandfather flew a PB2Y aircraft during World War II.

"I think it’s very, very cool because it represents our whole country and it represents my family," said Annie Childs, a first-grader whose squares recognize her grandfathers, Richard Childs, a retired Naval officer, and Donald Goodfellow who served in the Army during the Korean War.

Tommy Parrish, a first-grader, recorded the memory of a grandfather who was in the Marines while enlisting the help of a grandmother, Dana Kinder, a professional quilter from Spokane who turned the cloth into a quilt.

Now, the quilt stretches more than nine feet high. Children and parents point to squares of the protectors closest to their hearts.

"We have kind of hoped that the quilt teaches about Veterans Day and the importance of it," Hendrix said. "I want them to understand that there are people who have looked out for us, who have taken care of us."

You can call Herald Writer Eric Stevick at 425-339-3446

or send e-mail to stevick@heraldnet.com.

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