GREENFIELD — When local veterans Gerald Rowe and Mike Holzhausen met Grace Atherton at a square-dancing event, they didn’t know she’d find a beautiful way to recognize their service.
They didn’t know their pictures would be on a military tribute quilt displayed at the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis.
And they didn’t know they’d find a friend in Atherton.
She was looking for a way to honor her father, a United States Marine Corps veteran, and other family members who served in the military.
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Her grandfather served in the Navy during World War II, and her great-grandfather served in World War I.
But she didn’t honor just them. She honored 58 Hoosier veterans, some of whom she had never met.
The quilt took lots of traveling and six years to finish, but it’s something Atherton is proud to have finished. It was supposed to be on display only in her hometown of Shelbyville and was supposed to be a gift to her dad.
Instead it’s been presented at the museum since Memorial Day for hundreds of visitors to enjoy. The plan was to take it down on Veterans Day, but because of its popularity, the museum chose to keep it displayed until Memorial Day in May, Atherton said.
“I always wanted to do something to show my appreciation for my family and also just others who serve,” Atherton said. “The quilt came as a result of that.”
The quilt — which measures about 5-by-10 feet — features a painting, created by Atherton, in its center and an American flag border. And the veteran’s signature accompanies each picture.
“It’s a beautiful quilt, and she put a whole lot of work into it,” Rowe said. “Her and the people who helped her should be highly recognized and congratulated for the work they did.”
Rowe of Greenfield was in the Marine Corps from 1969 to 1977. He was impressed anyone would take the time Atherton did to pay tribute to people she knew only as acquaintances.
“You don’t find many young ladies any more who would do something like that,” he said.
Holzhausen, a lifelong Hancock County resident, found the gesture special, too. And visiting the museum to see the quilt was a great experience.
“I felt like it was a great tribute to all veterans, not just myself but anyone who served,” he said. “I was very impressed with the facility and quilt.”
The photo of Holzhausen featured on the quilt was taken in 1965 in Carson, Colorado. He served in the National Guard from 1964 to 1970 and trained all over the United States and Indianapolis.
Crafting the quilt was a long process, Atherton said, and there were many steps involved. She had to work with the veterans and their families to get the photos and signatures, deal with copyright issues, and stitch the photos and signatures to the fabric.
But she had help; her grandmother and other family members assisted.
Since it went on display in Indianapolis, the quilt has received a lot of publicity, including some from The Washington Post and newspapers from across the state.
Atherton’s not sure where the quilt will go next. She planned to give it to her father, but other museums in different states have asked if she’d allow them to display it instead.
“It was just going to be in my hometown to begin with. We’ve gotten a lot bigger,” she said. “Our whole goal now is to just say thank you to people who serve, and we’ll just let it roll.”
The quilt is serving another purpose, too. Atherton has been using her sewing skills to raise awareness about a fundraiser she’s holding for Soldiers’ Angels, a group that sends care packages to deployed soldiers.
Her goal is to raise enough money to send 350 packages, and so far, it’s raised $3,350.
To see the quilt, visit the Indiana War Memorial Museum, 431 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It’s expected to be displayed until Memorial Day.
Interested in donating to Grace Atherton’s fundraiser to provide care packages to deployed soldiers? Just visit her fundraiser page at www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/militarytributequiltforcarepackages/181180.