Quilters honor Whidbey Island veterans


Cheryn Weiser-Roosen-Runge wrapped the soft red, white and blue quilt around the shoulders of her 7-year-old grandson, Weston Klamm, and planted an affectionate kiss on his cheek.

More than a source of warmth and comfort, the quilt enveloped Klamm in the love sewn by each of the quilters who crafted it.

Klamm and Weiser-Roosen-Runge are the grandson and wife of veteran Kord Roosen-Runge, who served in the Army infantry in Berlin from 1961-1964. He was one of three veterans to receive a quilt in his honor as a part of this year’s Veterans Day services on Whidbey.

Roosen-Runge himself is incapacitated with cancer and was unable to attend the quilt-giving at the American Legion Hall in Bayview. His wife and grandson received the quilt on his behalf.

Weiser-Roosen-Runge said she had told her husband of the upcoming ceremony to honor him and other veterans the night prior.

“He was very moved,” she said.

To express his gratitude, Roosen-Runge penned a letter addressing both the Veterans Resource Center, as well as the quilters.

“The notion of a quilt that will keep me warm is a special surprise,” he wrote. “I’m looking forward to connecting with all of you, love Kord.”

“My grandma made quilt after quilt after quilt,” said Weiser-Roosen-Runge, “I appreciate every loving piece of it put together and all the loving hands that contributed.”

The makers of this and the two other quilts presented to Whidbey veterans Nov. 11 were a collective of dedicated volunteers, consisting of both seasoned quilters and members of groups such as Applique on Whidbey and Quilters on the Rock, as well as novices, several of whom took up the craft specifically to show their gratitude by taking part in the project.

What began as a handful of women gathered at the fairgrounds in 2013 sewing quilts for veterans expanded to become a larger event, the Veteran Quilt Sew-a-thon at the 2014 Whidbey Island Fair.

Men, women and children of all ages took part in the sew-a-thon, with more adept quilters assisting eager beginners.

The quilts produced during the event were donated to veterans admitted at Madigan Army Hospital near McChord Air Force Base.

After garnering a significant amount of interest at the sew-a-thon, group facilitator Anita M. Smith began a monthly gathering at Deer Lagoon Grange.

An average of about 20 volunteers — some of whom are veterans themselves — have attended each month to contribute to the making of the three completed quilts distributed Nov. 11. About seven more are nearly finished, and will also be donated to veterans upon completion.

“Many people touched this quilt; many put love into it,” Smith said of the quilt presented to Weiser-Roosen-Runge and Klamm, noting the diverse group of volunteers who contributed to its making.

The group’s youngest regular volunteer is Ellie Brockenbrough, who travels each month with her mother Ann Brockenbrough from Seattle in order to take part in the effort.

Each quilt was tagged with a note which reads, “This quilt was made by many quilters who gave fabric, time and love in gratitude for your service.”

The second quilt presented was in memoriam of Wheeler Nichols, who passed away from an unknown neurological condition while serving in the Air Force in 2014. He was 20 years old. Nichols’ parents, Russell and Barbara Nichols, received the quilt on his behalf.

Russell Nichols is also a veteran, having served in the Korean War.

“Wheeler Nichols loved the Air Force,” his father said tearily, adding that he and his wife are greatly appreciative of the gesture, having only recently moved to Whidbey.

Wheeler was the Nichols’ only child, adopted from Peru. After graduating from Air Force technical school, Nichols was shipped to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base where he was attached to the dental squadron. He aspired to one day become an oral surgeon.

“He was a great California American kid for all those years, and then we lost him,” Nichols said. “We really appreciate so much that you have recognized our son.”

The third recipient, Terri Desrosiers, is a veteran who served in the Army from 1975 to 1982. Smith and a few fellow quilters joined friends of Desrosiers’s at her workplace, the Langley Good Cheer thrift store, to present her with the quilt.

Desrosiers, too, expressed a great deal of gratitude to the group.

Though each quilt was one of a kind, made of a medley of donations of materials and time, all were also clearly representative of their patriotic purpose crafted in red, white and blue and bearing images such as eagles or flags.

Desrosiers’s included the image of a ship which was of personal significance to one of the quilters, with the sentiment that she may take it with her on future adventures.

For more information on the monthly quilting group, email Smith at amaggies@whidbey.com.