Nelsen Reveals Secret Quilt Project
by Jamie Horter, Lyons Mirror-Sun
Lyons resident Jeannine Nelsen has been keeping a secret for the past 2 years. She has quietly been working to recognize her high school classmates who have served in the military through a quilt making project.
Nelsen created quilts for her Lexington High School veteran classmates, along with those veterans who had attended the Catholic church in town as well, for a total of 17 quilts. Her plan was to present the quilts to the veterans during their high school reunion the weekend of June 18, 2016.
She set to work in 2014 gathering names. Nelsen worked with the reunion organizer to ask classmates to share what branch of service they were in with Nelsen. “When I first started this project, I thought there were five people (who served),” said Nelsen. “Then I started getting more calls.” Nelsen learned that 10 were in the army, 4 were in the navy, and 3 in the air force. Many served in Vietnam. Last weekend she learned that more have served.
The project was meant to be a surprise, so none of the veterans knew why they were to call her with their military information. “Well, I don’t know why you want this information,” were some of the responses Nelsen said she received, yet veterans were still responsive.
Nelsen’s project produced some surprising facts she had not known about her classmates. She learned that three had served in a military branch for over 20 years, including a woman who had served 21 years. “I didn’t even realize they had done all this,” said Nelsen.
Variety of Quilts
Quilts were made in various sizes ranging from 57” wide to 81 ½” long. Nelsen made up eleven different patters to create the quilt designs. Some include log cabin blocks, and all make use of red, white, and blue cloth.
Nelsen said she has spent at least a couple hours each day on the project over the course of two years. She purchased all the materials to produce the quilts.
On their reunion night, Nelsen presented each of the veterans with their quilt after reading the poem I am a Veteran by Andrea C. Brett.
She described the scene. “They were sitting in front of the rest of the class members. All of them were surprised. Some had tears in their eyes and some couldn’t believe that someone would do that for them. I heard many comments afterwards from them that this was the first time anyone had recognized them as to what they had done,” said Nelsen.
More Quilts to Create
Nelsen has since learned that there are 8 more veterans in her class. She will be making a quilt for each of them as well.
Nelsen began quilting in the 1980’s, first learning the skill in Lyons at an old quilting shop. She has produced quilts for great-nieces and nephews, graduation gifts, and even the family dog, but has never made a quilt for herself.
(Photo courtesy of Jeannine Nelsen)