Quilts Remembering Those Who Died

by Lynne Ober

Diana O’Connor with a replica of a Civil War quilt made with traditional fabrics

Quilters, by nature, are generous and involved in group activities.  For years there have been Quilting Bees, where quilters helped finish quilts while enjoying conversation.  Is it surprising then that this same group of people decided to help families who lost a loved one after the 9/11 attack?  Not really.

They started producing reproduction Civil War quilts based on one of the few existing Civil War U. S. Sanitary Commission quilts owned by the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands, and began presenting these precious quilts to families who lost a loved one in the battles against terrorism.  Today they have representatives in all of our states working together to make quilts for those who died protecting America, and have pledged to let no one be forgotten.

Pelham resident Diana O’Connor is the Massachusetts coordinator for Home of the Brave Quilts (www.homeofthebravequilts.com).

“I love quilting.  Once I saw how much these quilts meant to the families, I just decided to help as much as I could, and today I’m the coordinator for Massachusetts,” smiled O’Connor.

The Sanitary Commission was the precursor to the American Red Cross.  It was a volunteer organization charged with overseeing the sanitary conditions in the Union military hospitals.  Today the quilts from Home of the Brave Quilt project are not only reproduction Civil War quilts but each carries a label from the Sanitary Commission.

The Home of the Brave Quilt project is a grassroots movement that has spread to almost all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and has honorary chapters in England, Germany, and Australia.

O’Connor, a member of Hannah Dustin Quilters, became interested in these quilts, which are also known as a sympathy card done in fabric.  Quilters leave personal messages for the families for whom they make the quilts.  O’Connor currently has a quilt destined for a Massachusetts family that was made by a quilter in Iowa.  It has a label that simply says, “Made by an Iowa Farm Girl.”

While it’s impossible to replace a loved one, these quilters are attempting to ease the pain by sending replicas of handmade Civil War quilts to the families of military personnel who have died in service to their country, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Think of it as a sympathy card on fabric,” said Diana O’Connor.

Each modern quilt is made to Civil War era specifications, 48 by 84 inches.  O’Connor said that many use replica Civil War fabrics, but others use modern fabrics.  While each quilt has five vertical panels and three horizontal ones, the fabrics make each unique, and spread out together they look quite different.

According to O’Connor, the Home of the Brave Quilt project has delivered 2,798 quilts to 2,446 families during the past five years.  “This comes from the heart,” O’Connor said.  “Quilters do not benefit from this effort in any way.”  She paused and said, “I have found quilters to just be incredibly generous.”

Each quilt has an embroidered label made especially for the family.  Coordinators try to keep track of all families in their coordination area who have lost a family member to hostile action.

“We try to get quilts to everyone.  Some of these quilts come from a long way away, but they all come with love from the heart,” O’Connor concluded.

The O’Connors will be moving to California soon, but Diana, who is the busy mother of four children, hopes to remain active in this project.  “It just touched me.”

The Sanitary Commission replica label with the military member’s name

Pelham Elementary School Welcomes Future First Graders

by Doug Robinson

While PES Principal Alicia LaFrance reads Curious George Flies a Kite, Future Educators Academy students Laurie Costa (Curious George) and Ashley Scalia (Man in the Yellow Hat) look on.

Pelham Elementary School opened their doors and welcomed over 162 future first grade students to their Storytime evening.

“We sent out around 192 invitations to the potential first graders next year, and 162 children have already registered,” commented Pelham Elementary School Principal Alicia LaFrance.  “This is great, and it gives the young children a visit to the school and a visit with their first grade teacher before they come to the school.”

Curious George Flies a Kite was this year’s story selection, according to LaFrance.  As principal, LaFrance read the story to the packed gymnasium, while the young boys and girls hugged their stuffed animals of Curious George, bunnies, bears, frogs, dogs, and horses.  Parents brought assorted blankets, including superman blankets, as well as pillows that they would rest on the gymnasium floor as they listened to the trials and torments of Curious George.

“I am especially thankful to the Pelham School Council, parents, and staff.  This is a great way to open up kids to the first grade.  It breaks the ice.  This story is one of my favorites, and I am happy I can share it with you.  I am also thankful for the participation of the Future Educators Academy.  This Academy is dedicated to those who wish to be future teachers.”

New Salt Shed Still Required…What Now?

by Barbara O’Brien

A warrant article intended to bond the construction of a new combination salt shed and highway maintenance facility for the Town of Windham failed to get enough votes to pass, during the annual Town Meeting Election Day held on March 10.  A 60 percent majority is required to pass a bond.  Many people said they voted against the project, not because it isn’t needed, but due to the poor state of the economy.

The requirement for a new salt shed has not gone away, however, despite the recent defeat by voters, resulting in a discussion of the issue during the selectmen’s meeting on April 13.

According to Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan, the Department of Environmental Services (DES) has mandated that the existing salt facility be closed and a new structure completed by the end of 2011.  Currently the town’s road salt and sand are stored in an area near the historic Windham Depot.

The total cost of the construction project, including the enclosed salt storage facility and four highway maintenance bays, was determined to be about $960,000 as of this past March.  Of that amount, $370,000 is already set aside in a Capital Reserve Fund specified solely for that purpose.

Vice Chairman Bruce Breton wondered if the town could get an extension of two, three, or even five years on the 2011 deadline, because the bond failed to pass.  Breton said he wants town officials to check with DES to see if a waiver could be granted.

“It’s clear and specific that it needs to be done,” Selectman Charles McMahon said.  McMahon also serves as one of Windham’s representatives to the State Legislature.  “We need to move forward with this,” McMahon said, adding that it is paramount to provide more information to town residents before the issue comes up for another vote.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he would like to see the scope of the project cut back and a smaller bond taken to voters next time around.

McMahon said he feels that the proposed maintenance bays are necessary to assure that the vehicles and other town-owned highway maintenance equipment are kept undercover and better protected than they are presently.  “This will help the town to take care of its roads,” he said.

Highway Agent Jack McCartney said he feels that this year’s warrant article was poorly written, in that it appeared that the town was asking voters for all $960,000, rather than $590,000 remaining to be raised for the project (minus the $370,000 already in the capital reserve fund).  McCartney also said he feels that construction bids will be higher in the future than those which were received earlier this year.

Fire Department Given Responsibility as Town Blasting Agent

by Barbara O’Brien

Windham Selectmen have transferred the duties of town blasting agent from the planning board to the fire department.  The decision was made after the issue was discussed at two consecutive selectmen’s meetings and upon the assurance by Windham Fire Chief Tom McPherson that the fire department was willing and able to take on the responsibilities.

The town blasting agent is responsible for monitoring and regulating any blasting that occurs within Windham.

“We now have the stability within the fire department to take on the job,” McPherson said.  “It will be our job to ensure the safety of a site,” he said.  “We are ready to take over.”

Other responsibilities include being the record-keeper for any blasting taking place in town, McPherson explained.  “It’s our goal to document a paper trail,” he said.

McPherson said he had researched the issue in other communities and found that there are other towns where the fire department serves as the official blasting agent.  Town Attorney Bernie Campbell and Town Administrator David Sullivan also reviewed and approved the change from planning board to fire department.

Any changes to the town blasting ordinance are not the prerogative of the fire department.  Any proposed alterations would need to go to voters at an annual town meeting for a decision.

McPherson said it will not be necessary for the town to pay any overtime to firefighters to perform the duties of blasting agent.

The company or individual conducting the actual blasting will be responsible for taking measurements at the site, McPherson said.  It will be the fire department’s job to then review those tests.  McPherson said he feels that there will be more stringent adherence to the town’s blasting ordinance under the watch of the fire department.

McPherson assured selectmen that he will keep them apprised of any blasting issues taking place in the Town of Windham.  He also said he doesn’t foresee proposing any changes to existing blasting permit fees as they are in line with what is charged in other area communities.

Cobbetts Pond Residents Complain about Runoff from I-93 Project

by Barbara O’Brien

In a letter representing members of the Cobbetts Pond Improvement Association (CPIA), Windham Selectmen are being asked to investigate allegations that sediment, which is being produced as a result of work being done on the I-93 construction project, is running into tributaries emptying into Cobbetts Pond.  Cobbetts Pond has already been determined to be endangered.

According to the letter read at the selectmen’s April 13 board meeting, CPIA members are alleging two such incidents have occurred recently as the result of work being done in the area of Exit 3 off Route 93.

Town Administrator David Sullivan said that several town officials, including Highway Agent Jack McCartney, Town Planner Laura Scott, and Transfer Station Manager Dave Poulson, met recently to review the situation, and they have asked Department of Transportation (DOT) representatives to address the lack of sediment and erosion control in this area.  The letter from CPIA is alleging that the construction project is violating turbidity standards, which are required through the state permit process.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said that what is particularly bothersome in the allegations is that there are two of these incidents.  Hohenberger said he’s not sure that DOT is paying as close attention to the well-being of Windham as it should.

Poulson said there seems to be a debate going on solely between CPIA members and DOT representatives.  Poulson said he believes the Department of Environmental Services (DES) needs to intervene.

“They are the main player in this scenario,” Poulson said.  “That’s the protocol.”

Poulson said it is not a board of selectmen’s issue.  “It’s not under our (town) auspices,” he added.

Referring to the ongoing issue, Poulson told selectmen, “There seems to be two separate paths here… how to get the construction done and how to protect Cobbetts Pond.”

Selectman Ross McLeod said he feels “It’s unconscionable for the State to ignore one of our most valuable assets (Cobbetts Pond).”  McLeod recommended that a letter be sent to DES advising that agency of the sediment and erosion issue.

As the result of McLeod’s suggestion, selectmen voted unanimously (5 to 0) to write a letter to DES insisting that the agency take a more pro-active stance.

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