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Nancy Burns, coordinator of the Old Saybrook Piecemakers, holds a quilt created by her group that will be presented to a veteran as part of a Quilts of Valor ceremony. (Photo by Aviva Luria/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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As of Thursday, Sept. 26, seven members of the Westbrook Honor Guard will be better prepared for the chillier weather.
Members of this group of veterans, which volunteers to honor other veterans at their funerals, will be recognized themselves by the local branch of the Quilts of Valor organization, the Old Saybrook Piecemakers. Quilts of Valor volunteers use their talents to hand-make quilts for anyone who has served in the U.S. military.
Nancy Burns is a member of the Saybrook Point Quilt Guild, which gathers to socialize and work on quilts donated to various causes. After Connecticut Quilts of Valor coordinator Jane Dougherty came to speak to the group about five years ago, Burns was motivated to establish a local branch. Ever since, she’s coordinated the Old Saybrook Piecemakers.
“The group is so varied and has a lot of great skills,” Burns said. “It’s a nice, social day. I always come with a plan in mind.”
As coordinator of the Piecemakers, Burns sets up the events, but she prefers to remain in the background whenever possible. Dougherty usually presides over the ceremonies, during which the quilts are presented and then draped over the recipients. The Piecemakers’ first presentation took place in June 2015.
Burns, who worked as an administrator at General Dynamics Electric Boat before retiring, is extremely organized, keeping close track of each quilt from design to finish, so she can state with authority that in 4 ½ years, the group has created 250 quilt tops, several of which are still in progress.
The group always welcomes new people, Burns explained. After veteran Albert “Andy” Anderson spoke as grand marshal of Old Saybrook’s Memorial Day Parade, Burns and Dougherty, who had marched and carried the Quilts of Valor banner, approached Anderson’s daughter-in-law, Susan Anderson, to ask if he might be willing to be honored with a quilt. Susan Anderson said she’d check and is now making the quilt herself.
“She’s working on collecting things that he cared about and we’re going to do it...Nov. 8 for him,” said Burns. “He’s in Saybrook and that’s at the Estuary.”
Mike Neville’s involvement with the Old Saybrook Piecemakers began with her making quilts for her four brothers—two served in World War II, and two in Korea—her husband (a Korean War veteran), and her son-in-law.
“It’s something you can do to give someone else pleasure,” she said. “I think I’ve done 20 of them.”
The ceremony is especially meaningful for some Vietnam veterans, Neville said.
“A couple of them said, ‘You’re the only people who ever said thank you to us,’” she said.
Westbrook Honor Guard Commander Joe Barry said that he doesn’t have any experience with Quilts of Valor but that the Honor Guard members are “excited about it.”
“I think it’s an honorable thing that they’re doing,” Barry said. “The people that are going to be recipients are very appreciative of it.”
The Quilts of Valor ceremony will take place on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. in the Multi-Media Room at Westbrook Town Hall. A reception will follow at the Westbrook Senior Center. Quilts of Valor may be requested on the national organization’s website at www.qovf.org.
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