Lynch­burg quilt­ing group hon­ors WWII veter­ans

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Virginia - BY MAR­GARET CARMEL The News & Ad­vance

LYNCH­BURG — The night of Sept. 11, lo­cal seam­stresses aimed to warm World War II veter­ans’ hearts and bod­ies with com­mem­o­ra­tive quilts hon­or­ing their mil­i­tary ser­vice.

In a cer­e­mony at West­min­ster Can­ter­bury in Lynch­burg, eight veter­ans were hon­ored by the Seven Hills Quilt Guild and pre­sented with pa­tri­otic­themed quilts called “Quilts of Valor.” The quilts were the work of the Quilts of Valor Foun­da­tion, a non­profit that presents veter­ans and ac­tive duty ser­vice mem­bers across the na­tion with quilts to honor their ser­vice.

Dur­ing the cer­e­mony, a pre­sen­ta­tion scrolled through images of the veter­ans in uni­form dur­ing their ser­vice, their mil­i­tary ac­com­plish­ments were read to the crowd, and they were wrapped in their quilts by vol­un­teers. A ninth Coast Guard vet­eran also was hon­ored, but she re­fused a quilt be­cause she only served for six months dur­ing the war and felt like she did not de­serve it, ac­cord­ing to West­min­ster Can­ter­bury staff.

Sit­ting in a wheel­chair, Joseph “Mac” Pace qui­etly watched as the vol­un­teers wrapped him in a green and brown quilt with dif­fer­ent mil­i­tary em­blems and say­ings printed on it. Af­ter the cer­e­mony, he ex­pressed his grat­i­tude for the Quilts of Valor vol­un­teers who took the time to make the quilt and the cer­e­mony to honor the veter­ans.

“It feels won­der­ful to be ac­knowl­edged,” said Pace, 94, who served un­til he was dis­charged in 1946 and stayed in the re­serves un­til 1954. “It’s a great honor, and it’s won­der­ful to be able to have served my coun­try as many years as I did. I have no re­grets. I did get scared quite a few times though.”

The Quilt of Valor Foun­da­tion be­gan in 2003, when founder Cather­ine Roberts’ son was de­ployed to Iraq. Ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion’s web­site, she had a dream where she saw a young sol­dier strug­gling with home­sick­ness and de­pres­sion while de­ployed. Later in the dream, she saw him wrapped in a quilt.

Soon af­ter, she es­tab­lished the Quilts of Valor Foun­da­tion to sew high-qual­ity quilts and award them to veter­ans and ac­tive-duty sol­diers in recog­ni­tion of their sac­ri­fices to their coun­try. Word of her or­ga­ni­za­tion spread, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion now has pre­sented more than 200,000 quilts, ac­cord­ing to Seven Hills Quilt Guild’s Quilt of Valor Com­mit­tee Chair­man Linda Thaxton.

“Her in­ten­tion was to cover veter­ans or ac­tive ser­vice peo­ple. To give them some com­fort to let them know that there are peo­ple that re­ally care about them,” Thaxton said prior to the cer­e­mony. “We don’t know them, but we love them just the same.”

With ap­prox­i­mately 30 mem­bers, the Seven Hills Quilt

Guild, based in Lynch­burg, be­gan work­ing with Quilts of Valor in 2014 and has since pre­sented a to­tal of 12 quilts to veter­ans in the area.

The quilts have to be high qual­ity, hand­sewn and a cer­tain size, as spec­i­fied by the na­tional Quilts of Valor Foun­da­tion, Thaxton said. Ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion’s web­site, the quilts are meant to be spe­cial gifts and spe­cially awarded.

“Quilts of Valor would be the civil­ian equiv­a­lent of a Pur­ple Heart award,” Roberts wrote on the web­site. “Quilts of Valor would be ‘awarded,’ not just passed out like mag­a­zines or videos. A Quilt of Valor would say un­equiv­o­cally, ‘Thank you for your ser­vice, sac­ri­fice, and valor,’ in serv­ing our na­tion in com­bat.”

Pace be­gan his mil­i­tary jour­ney in 1942, when he left Vir­ginia Tech and en­rolled at the U.S. Mer­chant Ma­rine Academy — oth­er­wise known as Kings Point — in Long Island, N.Y. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, he served on seven ships in the At­lantic Ocean and then the Pa­cific Theater be­fore the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Ja­pan.

Point­ing proudly to the gold U.S. Mer­chant Ma­rine pin on his red sweater, he ex­tolled the im­por­tance of the ser­vice, which trans­ports Amer­i­can cargo and pas­sen­gers around the world dur­ing peace­time and be­comes an aux­il­iary of the U.S. Navy dur­ing wartime.

Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt pushed Congress to pass the Mer­chant Ma­rine Act to es­tab­lish a 10-year pro­gram for build­ing ships to use for cargo ship­ping and mil­i­tary use. The bill also cre­ated a pro­gram to train sol­diers to man the ships, and that pro­gram be­came Kings Point.

“I’m so glad I got to be a part of it,” he said. “Roo­sevelt did a great deed for this coun­try when he was able to es­tab­lish ships to carry the ships and cargo and ev­ery­thing and have crews to man those.”

Sue Ellen Clark, West­min­ster Can­ter­bury’s recre­ation di­rec­tor, said the fa­cil­ity and its staff were ap­proached by the Seven Hills Quilt Guild to do the cer­e­mony. They de­cided to honor the rapidly dwin­dling num­bers of WWII veter­ans in their care.

“We love to do things that are mean­ing­ful and pur­pose­ful,” Clark said. “We do have a lot of veter­ans, and we have a lot of veter­ans that are older and, even in the process lead­ing up to this night, we have lost many veter­ans from WWII. There are fewer and fewer chances to say thank you to the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion.”

LATHAN GOUMAS/THE NEWS & AD­VANCE

Mem­bers of the Quilts of Valor Foun­da­tion place a quilt around Joseph “Mac” Pace, 94, dur­ing a cer­e­mony at West­min­ster Can­ter­bury.

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