Fabric of centenarian's life interwoven in legacy of quilts


A service of love and driving desire to be involved in her community found Bessie Obert Freeman McGuire photocopying and stuffing inserts into the 150 worship service bulletins she runs every week at her volunteer post at the Milton Adventist Church on May 10, her 100th birthday.

Bessie has tackled this job for several years, said Harold Rich in a release. Eighty-five to 100 family members and friends from across the country and overseas celebrated the occasion with her on May 13 in the church's Fellowship Hall.

Over three hours, they shared memories and enjoyed celebratory cake and a refreshment buffet. The gathering space was decorated with many of the colorful, unique quilts that Bessie made and shared.

"Though showing her age more and more, she doesn't sit at home with nothing interesting to do." She's been hand-stitching quilts for more than 35 years, producing approximately 50 full-size bed quilts including two each for two children, two each for eight grandchildren, and one for each of her 16 great-grandchildren.

She still hears from folks in an African orphanage after she sent 40 tied quilts there a few years ago.

Through the years she has given the local Blue Mountain TV station eight quilts to use as fundraising gifts. And during the last five years she's made about 10 oversized crib quilts annually for especially needy patients. She has six on hand ready to go.

Bessie and a couple of friends have 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. A few children at the Shriners Hospital for Children -- Portland have also received quilts.

Bessie was born May 10, 1912, on the north fork of the Walla Walla River and raised in Baker County, Ore. She retains vivid memories of her father working their homestead near Sparta.

At 13, while living on the homestead, she cared for three siblings and handled all the chores for most of a month while her parents were away on an emergency. "Such a thing would be an unheard-of and an awesome no-no in today's world," Harold remarked.

Later, while working at a dairy in Lincoln City, she hand-milked 11 cows twice a day. "She was a true pioneer."

For many years the manager of Harris Building Supply in Pilot Rock, Bessie worked for Harris Pine Mills for about 40 years in various capacities.

She recently told a friend she never has time to get bored. When, at 92, she easily renewed her eight-year driver's license she told her friends, "I don't think I'll renew this next time."

She changed her mind, however, and had her unrestricted driver's license renewed so she can continue to drive the few blocks to and from church. "She is proud of the fact that she is still alert enough to safely make the short journey each week," Harold said.

She especially delights in hosting Bible study class at her house for occasional potlucks. "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, especially those dealing with Bible prophecy."

Bessie joined the Christian Church as a teenager, then became a Seventh-day Adventist in her early 20s after observing the life of her mother-in-law, "Sister" Maude Freeman.

She told Harold that her grandfather, Daniel Frank Brown, was among the first to start commercial generation of electricity in Oregon. He started the first electrical company and sold it to the city of Milton for $500, then operated it for $50 per month.

A recent article in the Valley Herald reported that the first customers were charged monthly for the number of hanging light fixtures in the house, not by the amount of electricity used.

Bessie has a daughter, Joanne Minder of Desert Hot Springs, Calif. She was preceded in death her first husband; by second husband Charles McGuire; and three sons, Richard, Jim and Berle Freeman.

The maiden run of a Chocolate Journey fundraiser brought in $15,000 to sustain The Health Center at Lincoln, said Deborah Peters, development director.

The April 28 event was at Dunham Cellars Winery. Proceeds will go to programing that promotes the physical, emotional and social well-being of some of Walla Walla's highest-needs children, the students of Lincoln High School, Deborah said.

Approximately 170 friends of The Health Center supported the event and enjoyed gourmet chocolate small plates and desserts, wine and a silent auction. Food was provided by Brasserie Four, T. Maccarone's, Olive, Frosted, Cugini Imports, Whitehouse Crawford and Arrowhead Chocolates from Joseph, Ore.

The wine came from Dunham Cellars. Many local wineries, merchants and individuals donated items for the auction, including several rare bottles of wine, original artwork, custom jewelry and a catered barbecue feast for six, Deborah said.

Mick Miller, superintendent of Walla Walla Public Schools, spoke passionately about the need for The Health Center's services and the importance of the community's continuing to support The Health Center's work, Deborah said. He indicated a possible future collaboration between the District and The Health Center to provide services to students at Blue Ridge Elementary, she said.

Lincoln students receive free medical, mental health and social support services at the center. Many of its clients face serious health and/or social issues, including the lack of family support. "Most would not access services on their own were it not for The Health Center at Lincoln, which is located next door to the school and is known among Lincoln's students for its relaxed atmosphere and caring, non-judgmental staff."

Deborah added that research conducted by the National Assembly of School Based Health Centers shows that students who use school-based health centers for medical care are less likely to visit hospital emergency rooms and are more likely to stay in school; students who use mental health services show increases in grade point averages.

"The Health Center at Lincoln is making a real difference in the lives of Walla Walla's children. Our first major fundraiser is behind us, but our journey is just beginning" said Holly Howard, executive director.

For more information, contact Deborah at Deborah@TheHealthCenterWW.org, or call 529-5432.

Much to the delight of her family, Whitney Jacky, 25, graduated with a doctorate in audiology from Idaho State University.

Whitney's parents are Debra Papp Oswald and Mark Jacky. The 2005 Walla Walla High School alumna simultaneously earned an associate of arts degree from Walla Walla Community CollegeSSRqs Running Start program.

She earned her bachelor of arts degree in communication sciences and disorders from Western Washington University in 2008.

She lives in Auburn, Wash., and is an audiologist at Harbor Audiology & Hearing Services Inc., which has practices in Gig Harbor and Tacoma, Wash. She currently works with pediatric through geriatric populations and performs hearing and balance evaluations, tinnitus treatment and provides hearing rehabilitation services, said her mom.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.


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