Etcetera - 06/09/10

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When Bessie Obert Freeman McGuire, 98, began quilting more than 35 years ago, she had no idea where her hobby would lead, friend Harold Rich said via e-mail.

Thus far, Bessie has hand-stitched approximately 50 full-size bed quilts, including two each for her four children and eight grandchildren, and one for each of 16 great-grandchildren.

A few years back she sent 40 tied quilts to folks in an African orphanage from whom she still hears on occasion.

Another hand-stitched quilt was a wedding present to an African student who returned home after receiving a master's degree at Walla Walla College, now Walla Walla University. Through the years she has given local Blue Mountain TV eight quilts to use as fundraising gifts.

Harold said Bessie is currently working on a special log cabin pattern queen-size quilt to be sold to help pay huge medical expenses for a young friend fighting cancer. Through an employee friend at the cancer center, Bessie has made about 10 oversized crib quilts annually during the last three years for especially needy patients. She still has six on hand.

With a couple of friends, she has knitted or crocheted about 90 prayer shawls to be used as lap warmers for very sick people who come to their attention -- "a highly treasured item by the recipients," Harold said. Children at the Portland Shriner's Hospital have also received quilt in past years.

Born on the north fork of the Walla Walla River in 1912, Bessie grew up in Baker County, Ore., where she remembers her father working their homestead near Sparta. At 13, while living on the homestead, she was in charge of three siblings and necessary chores for almost a whole month while her parents were away from home on an emergency.

Later in life, while working at a dairy in Lincoln City, every day she hand-milked 11 cows twice a day. "Bessie was a true pioneer," Harold said.

For many years the manager of Harris Building Supply in Pilot Rock, Bessie worked for the Harris Pine Mills organization for about 40 years in various capacities. Every Thursday now, she photocopies and stuffs inserts into bulletins for Milton Seventh-day Adventist Church. "Though the passage of time is beginning to take its toll, Bessie enjoys living life to the fullest and still enjoys reading about current events and other items of significant value," Harold said.

Contact Annie Charnley Eveland at annieeveland@wwub.com or 526-8313.

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