Grandma makes genealogy quilts

Published: Sunday, Sept. 19 2010 10:00 a.m. MDT

Pat Keyes of St. George shows off her genealogy quilt. (Pat Keyes) Pat Keyes of St. George shows off her genealogy quilt. (Pat Keyes)

Not every quilt is 60 years or so in the making. And Pat Keyes certainly didn't plan on taking that long to finish one. But life happens. And it's not as though she's actually be stitching on it all these years.

But when she presented her "genealogy quilt" to her son over the Labor Day weekend, it was something that had been started years and years ago, when she lived in Ohio.

"I had a good friend there who thought I should learn to quilt," said Keyes in a telephone chat from her home in St. George. "I would go to her home, and we made traditional patchwork blocks, 18 in all." The friend was a perfectionist. "If I had a tread out of order, she made me do it over."

A while later, Keyes moved. For a time, she lived in St. Louis and got involved in national politics. "I campaigned for Ronald Reagan. After he was elected, one day, I got a call and was offered a job with the Department of Transportation." So, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she was in charge of Regions 7 and 8, and a little too busy to do much quilting.

When George H.W. Bush was elected, he offered her a job, "but I figured I'd had my time in the sun. It was a great experience. But it was great being retired."

And now, there were quilts to do. "After we moved back to St. George, I got back into quilting." Eventually, she pulled out her 18 blocks and began to think about what to do with them.

At age 82, tradition and legacy were becoming more important, so she decided to make a genealogy quilt with alternating squares of printed information tracing her family history. "The left side is my line; the right side is my husband's line. I've always been interested in family history, so it was a lot of fun."

And when she got it done, she showed it to her son. "He said, 'That's neat,' And I said, 'Kevin, look closer. Look at the top.' 'That's me,' he said. 'Is this my quilt? Oh my.' And then he cried."

Keyes had also made quilts for her eight grandchildren. But this one is special for many reasons. "I just want them all to know that you should always finish what you've started." Even if it takes a long time.

e-mail: carma@desnews.com

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