A Very Special Quilter Who Never Made A Quilt


Many of you know I grew up in a house where quilting and quilters were part of our daily lives. Envelopes containing orders, questions and catalog requests usually covered the kitchen table. Stacks of quilting stencils gathered to fill orders often took up space on the ironing board. Tiny pieces of card stock and ice-like crystals of templates plastic were tracked through every inch of our house from stencil cutting for years and years. Nearly every inch of our attic and basement was filled with kit quilt patterns, art needlework patterns, salesman's sample cases, quilting books, patterns, sample quilts, button cards, fabric samples, stencil cutting machines, thimble making equipment and hundreds of other treasures dating back to the early 1900s.

Never once, well okay, maybe once or twice, did she complain about having our home consumed in manufacturing and business operations. She always made our house a home. I know we've all heard the saying "behind every successful man is a woman". In my family growing up that was a true fact. When my Dad won the Michael Kile Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to quilting it was almost as much my Mom's award as his.

Garrett & Violet Raterink 1992

My Mom, Violet Raterink, passed away on January 9th after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was diagnosed shortly after my Dad passed away in 2001. Looking back it's hard to believe my Mom never made a quilt. She had the skills to do it. She was a talented seamstress. She had the patterns, rulers, sewing machine and such. She knew how to make a quilt and could teach others to make quilts but she never made one herself. You know what? I never asked her why.

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. It's complicated, confusing, cruel and unforgiving. I read everything I could find when Mom was diagnosed but nothing prepared me for the feelings I experienced when she actually died. Yes, I was sad and I cried but it wasn't the same as when I'd lost other loved ones. Even though she was in a memory care unit, Mom and I went to the doctor together, out for coffee and ice cream together, to sing-a-longs together, shopping and sometimes we just sat together. I've come to realize I'd actually been grieving for ten years over and over again as each little piece of my Mom slipped away until in the end Mom was already gone. No one told me it would be that way so I hope if you know someone who's caring for a relative with Alzheimer's you'll tell them it might be like that. It truly was more painful when I realized she no longer knew who I was than it was to kiss her good-bye knowing she might die before I came back to see her.

With all that said, I ask you to support the Alzheimer Art Quilt Initiative and the wonderful work Ami Simms is doing to help fund Alzheimer's research. Ami's mother also passed away due to Alzheimer's. Click on the link above or HERE to learn more about Alzheimer's and the ways you can help or show your support.

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5 Responses to “A Very Special Quilter Who Never Made A Quilt”

  1. Marilyn Anshien January 17, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I really enjoyed my visit to your site. I would love to win these beautiful fabrics as next week is my birthday. What a great gift it would be. Thanks for sharing.
    Marilyn in NJ

  2. Cathy Thomas January 18, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    Gay, my emotions ran the gamut as I read your page. First, tears for your mom and all you went through. Then happiness for the rescued puppy. Then sheer joy to see the blocks and restoration! Looking forward to seeing more great stuff here in the future. Thanks for sharing it all.

  3. Nancy Martzolf January 18, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    Thank you for this wonderful website and all of your hard work! Love your beautiful fabrics~ Blessings to you this new year!! Nancy in IN

  4. Jackie January 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm #


    First of all I would like to offer you my deepest symphaties for the loss of your precious Mother. I, have also lost my Mother, 2yrs ago, to this terrible disease!! I know exactly what you are feeling, because I also felt that I went through the grieving stage, while she was at the senior’s home for alzheimer’s. To have a loved one go through alzheimer’s is a terrible feeling on our part, feeling so helpless, sad, angry and I could just go on and on about it… But all in all, yes For all of you out there whom are going through this stage, don’t feel bad if you have these feelings as I think everyone goes though them.

  5. Gerda Vantuil January 20, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Hi, Gay! First, I’m so sorry to hear of your mom’s passing – I lost mine to brain cancer back in ’94, and I agree, knowing they will pass away long before they do, is a bit easier to take than when someone is gone suddenly – my dad died suddenly of a heart attack, and it was two years before I could look at his picture without crying. With mom it wasn’t so bad, (because we knew it was just a matter of time) just Mother’s Day was so hard (she passed the day before). ((((((hugs))))))
    Wow, that is pretty fabric! Way to go!! I wonder if I’ll see it up here in the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada area (my little sister lives in Grand Rapids, but she’s not a quilter). I would love a chance to win some of it!!
    And that pup – what a cutie!! I understand Clutch’s reaction, though – he’s been all yours for so long, now he’s sharing. He’ll get over it! 🙂
    And thank you so much for your gorgeous free patterns all these years. I have saved most if not all of them, and plan to do them one of these days, the redwork will likely be first, but I’m really into doll quilts now, so maybe the Midget blocks.
    Take care.

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