Daughters of the American Revolution Regent Lisa Wilson Grant stumbled across her first Quilts of Valor ceremony three years ago. She was walking into Christie’s Quilting Boutique, which hosts a ceremony every year, recognizing the service of Norwalk’s veterans by awarding them with handmade patriotic quilts.
One by one, the veterans were presented a quilt, which was ceremonially wrapped around their shoulders.
As she watched, Grant began to cry. “You can see it in his face, the way he feels comforted,” she said. She decided that day that she would become involved the following year.
She did, and this year, when she heard that Christie’s may not hold a ceremony (it will, in May), Grant brought it to the Daughters of the American Revolution as a volunteer project. As a result, this year, the DAR held its first ever Quilts of Valor ceremony Saturday morning.
For Grant, the ceremony holds echoes of a picture of her great uncle taken during the Korean War. The black-and-white image by military photographer Al Chang shows an infantryman curled, fists clenched, in the embrace of another soldier, Eugene Harris. Their friend had just been killed in action. Behind them, a corpsman filled out casualty tags.
The photograph went on to become part of the Museum of Modern Art’s “The Family of Man” exhibit, which celebrated universal aspects of the human experience. Harris, Grant’s great uncle, was killed in the war shortly after the photo was taken, never returning home.
And as Grant first watched the quilts being wrapped around veterans, she thought of the comfort her great uncle had offered his fellow soldiers and imagined the quilt being an extension of the same impulse. “A quilt would be the same feeling as the arms around, hugging somebody,” she said.
The DAR values patriotism, and for the quiltmakers among its membership, the ceremony is a way to show support.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing something,” Grant said. “It’s just making quilts. But I’m happy to continue doing this.”
The veterans honored Saturday at the South Norwalk Library offer a taste of the wide variety of ways Norwalkers have served the country. David Evans, 98, served in the Army during World War II in North Africa and Italy, and is believed by the American Legion to be the oldest veteran in Norwalk. Jim Wrinn, who works at the Norwalk Police Department, was an Army sergeant and now serves as chairman at American Legion Post 12. Jack McEnany served in the Army as a combat engineer and firefighter and spent 13 months in Korea. And Ed Gutkowski is a Marine with a Purple Heart for his time fighting in the mountains of Korea in winter weather that sometimes dipped as low as 45 below zero.
“He’s just a wonderful, wonderful person!” said Cathi O’Hara, who made Gutkowski’s quilt. They grew to know each other at the Norwalk Senior Center.
“This quilt is a significant expression of my feeling of respect and honor to this man and what he did to preserve our freedom. And so this is a very small, small token of my honor and respect.”
©2018 The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.)
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