Walk to the end of the hall in Alison Adams’ home in Sibley and there it is: a beautiful queen-size Missouri Sampler quilt gracing a chair for all to admire.
The story behind the evolution of this masterpiece quilt “serves as a reminder of the binding of two families,” writes Emily Twiehaus, the daughter of Alison Adams, in her tribute, “A Quilted Legacy.” Emily also is the granddaughter of Leona Adams, who brought the incomplete quilt to life, and the granddaughter of the late Evelyn Richards, who started the quilt years ago and never finished it. Instead, she put the quilting material in a box and placed it in a closet for safekeeping.
The quilt, which captures family history with names, dates and events, also “serves as a reminder of the service provided by my grandparents and the quilted legacy they leave behind,” she writes. “It also serves as a reminder to create my own legacy, and whether this be in the form of a quilt or other crafted trade, I am pleased to say that I am the product of memory makers.”
No one knows for sure how long the partially completed quilt had been in the storage box before Evelyn’s husband, Jerry Richards, found it following his wife’s death on Oct. 4,1997 – the day after their 50th wedding anniversary.
Asked why he rescued Evelyn’s unfinished quilt, the 93-year-old family patriarch says that when he saw the beautiful handwork on the quilt, he realized “she had gone too far not to complete it.” So he asked daughter Alison to ask her mother-in-law, Leona Adams, to finish it.
Why 89-year-old Leona?
Noting Leona was a lifelong quilter and seamstress, Emily Adams says that when her Grandpa Jerry ran across the quilt in the closet, “It was natural for him to think of (Leona) to finish it.” And she did, in January 2013. Leona presented it to Alison, who then presented it to her father. After keeping the prized possession for a couple of days, he returned it to Alison for safekeeping.
Says Alison: “I have the quilt in my possession now, and will cherish it always. It will always be special that my mom started the quilt and my mother-in-law was able to complete it.”
Jerry has never slept under the quilt, splashed with various shades of brown, orange and fall colors, he says, noting “it was too valuable to keep in his room” at the Villages of Jackson Creek in Independence.
In her tribute, Emily Twiehaus writes: “Years after (Evelyn’s) passing, my grandfather (Jerry) found the pieces of a quilt my grandmother so carefully stitched with love. She recorded the meticulous design in a journal labeling each block of the quilt. The minutes, hours and days she spent with this patchwork in her hands are unknown, but the time she spent is not the focus. The careful design of the quilt tells more of her character. Like my grandfather, she savored the opportunity to create something with her own hands.”
Recalling her Grandpa Jerry accepted Leona’s finished quilt with tears in his eyes, she adds: “I wonder what went through his mind at this moment, but I have a feeling there were some sweet memories of my grandmother sitting and crafting this quilt. After careful examination, he passed the quilt back to my mother, instructing her to take it home satisfied beyond words of its completion.”
Leona didn’t have to start assembling the quilt from scratch. When Evelyn put the quilt in the closet, she already had two rows of blocks done. Not only that, but Evelyn had a dated notebook; each block had a name.
“Each page showed how to put (a block) together and finish it up,” Leona says. “I went and finished two rows and then started quilting it. But then, as I went, the story-writing began; I could tell (a person’s) whole life.”
Recalling Jerry had given her a lot of pieces of fabric after Evelyn’s death, Leona, who lives and works in Grain Valley with her daughter, Barb Adams, says its amazing what she has sewn from those pieces.
“So when (Jerry) brought (his wife’s quilt) in, it was just too beautiful of a thing to be left in pieces, Leona says, adding: “I had such a thrill doing it. ... It has been such a beautiful thing to put together and remember his wife and all.”
The neat aspect of the quilt story, Emily says, is that when her parents married in 1978, two families became one.
“And I think that is a great reminder in this day and age when we take families for granted, what was started on one side of the family was completed by the other side,” she notes, then adds: “Something that was left in a box is now a family heirloom.”
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.