Friday, July 30, 2010

A Shadow Crossed Sunshine's Path

two tops quilted by Bev

by Linda Kau

One of our most prolific quilting angels received her wings last week. Bev Bennett, quilter extraordinaire, passed away in Fairbanks, Alaska. What will we do without her?

Bev was indeed one of the brightest sunbeams in our midst. Over the years she has completed literally hundreds of quilts that comfort children around the world. She sent box after box of these completed hugs to our chosen donation points of contact in Sunshine Quilts’ name. What will we do without her?

Bev and I met online in 1997 through a quilting group. Later she became the “Mother Hen” of a spin-off group who enjoyed doing mystery quilts, i.e. the name of the group, Mystery Quilters. As our group grew, some wished we could find a way to share our love of quilting with the world and offer comfort to others, too. After discussion and with the help of Bev, amongst others, Sunshine Quilts was formed. Bev has continued to mentor new quilters and cheer us all with her upbeat posts as well as generous donation of her time to finish up all these many quilts. Comforting children with a hug and a quilt was her mission in life.

When I joined that online quilting group in 1997, little did I know how it would change my life. I gained a wonderful friend in Fairbanks, Alaska. Bev -- quiet, private Bev -- was like the sister I never had. We corresponded regularly since then, met in person, visited frequently and generally had a blast. I’ll always remember the time she drove down from Fairbanks to Anchorage to attend a mystery quilting class with me. I was amazed at the speed at which that little lady could move! Her sewing machine must have had an extra gear in it… one else could accomplish as much as she did in such a short time period! She completed an entire quilt top in the time most of the rest of us completed half of the steps in that mystery.

Bev Bennett was a little lady who was a true optimist, no matter what her situation......she never slowed down, either. A retired Army nurse and widow of a retired Lieutenant Colonel, she devoted her later years to quilting for children around the world. I don't know how many children have enjoyed the fruits of her labors.........thousands, literally.

Bev was a driving force behind Sunshine Quilts. We called her one of our quilting angels, because she’d take quilt tops made by others and quilt them on her home sewing machine, bind them and send them off to offer comfort around the world. Even when she was still working outside the home she was quilting 200 to 300 quilts a year! Her finished quilts have gone to Russian orphanages through the International Red Cross, developing countries where children are receiving Rotaplast surgeries via Wrap A Smile, US Indian Reservations with Wrap Them In Love, plus many, many more children in various locations.

Sunshine's motto is "Keeping the World Warm - One Quilt at a Time". That's exactly what she did, and all with love and a smile! What will we do without her?

Bev loved her kitties and dog, too. We all enjoyed her stories about KC Kitty, among others. She posted pictures of moose peeking in her window while her dog sat inside and watched. We shuddered when she wrote about temperatures of 40 deg. below zero during the winter, and we wished for the lovely sunshine she described in the summer. She mentioned stopping along the roadside on the way home from work to watch the Northern Lights. She talked about the beautiful Alaskan wildflowers. She loved Alaska!

Widowed over 25 years ago, Bev still talked of wonderful times spent with her husband, Don. They had little time together, but made the best of those short years. They owned and ran a lodge in Northern Alaska, and she told stories about that time out in the wilderness with humor and fond memories….no electricity, walking the path to the outhouse in the depths of winter, watching the Alaskan wildlife….their togetherness. Don was one of the early Alaskan legislators, something Bev seldom talked about, but when she did, it was with pride. Although I never met him, Bev's loving stories made him real to me, also.

So here I sit, talking through the Internet as I often did with Bev. I won't be able to visit her this way from now on. I'll have to find another way. Perhaps I’ll communicate with her through my quilting adventures as I try to complete more quilts for Sunshine as my tribute to her.

RIP, Dear Friend. You may be gone from this world, but not from my heart.