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Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Kinnelon Town Comforter

The town comforter - Kinnelon quilters reunited after great projectAs promised in The Kinnelon Friendship Quilt in the Kinnelon Library, here is an article from The Star-Ledger from 2006 about the Kinnelon town comforter.

Thank you, Ron Leavesley.

The town comforter - Kinnelon quilters reunited after great project

The Star-Ledger
June 15, 2006
by Jamie Duffy

The quilt had hung in the Kinnelon Public Library for 23 years.

Each square represented a piece of local life - borough hall, the library, the fire departement and first aid squad, St. Hubert's Chapel on Kinnelon Lake, the Miller Barn on Kiel Avenue, the Smoke Rise Inn and Smoke Rise East Gate and the Butternut Tree at Kinnelon and Kiel avenues.

But when Lorraine Bravante and Marlys Huss, two friends who worked at an arts and crafts fair together, went to investigate the history of the 4-by-6-foot quilt, they didn't learn much about it.

"We couldn't find a scrap of information, except for that one picture from The Star-Ledger," Bravante explained.

Using that one article from March 1983, Bravante and Huss started to piece together the quilt's 23-year-history.

They made a few calls, and on June 4, about some 35 women who helped make the patchwork cover were reunited at the Kinnelon library. Over punch and cookies, the quilters reminisced.

"I tell you, it was beautiful," said Alma Koontz, one of the quilters. "We were talking about it. We can't believe that it was that long ago."

It was so long ago that Koontz forgot how much time she spent stitching Velcro onto the quilt's back while her son Alan, now 46 and a cabinetmaker in Andover, crafted the frame and glued on corresponding Velcro strips.

"I called him about that. He said, 'Mom, don't you remember? You did the Velcro on it,' and then all of a sudden it came back to me," Koontz related.

The quilt was created by members of several organizations for the dedication of the new sanctuary at Our Lady of the Magnificat Roman Catholic Church.

Monsignor John Ryan suggested that the church reach out to different organizations in town to make the quilt after his brother, Monsignor Leo Ryan in Chatham, proposed a similar undertaking, Bravante said.  A church committee chose 20 designs after templates were submitted.

"You had a person who took a picture of the building, another person would draw the template, another person would buy the fabric, then maybe would do the crewel work, embroidery, some did applique," said Bravante.  "If you look at the quilt, you see there's a lot of different means of putting this together, and they used them all," she said.

Willie Lummer, who sewed the 12-by-12-inch block for the Kinnelon Fire Company, remembered the camaraderie at the weekly quilting bees.

"I was so involved with the fire company and with the bowling association that when I got involved in this, I met people I didn't know through these other organizations. Everyone was very friendly."

Ryan, a beloved priest, who served from 1961 until he died in 1991, was trying to bring the community closer together, said Bravante.  Both she and Huss are members of Our Lady of the Magnificat.

"He felt the community was fragmented into three parts - the borough, Fayson Lakes and Smoke Rise - and this maybe could pull the community together," Lummer said.


"Violet Pavlak, she did the Butternut Tree," said Koontz, who had taken a quilting class with Pavlak before the quilt was proposed.  "She was such a part of that quilt.  It's too bad they didn't have this sooner and she could have been part of it."

Pavlak died about three years ago, said Koontz.

Bravante and Hess plan to continue to draw on these women's memories.  They have mailed questionnaires to the participants, hoping to write a history of the quilt for the church and library archives.

"Before everyone is gone, we really wanted to capture that," Huss said of Sunday's reunion.  "It was a piece of our Kinnelon history, and with the passing of Father Ryan we just really came upon that portion of it by accident and then we went from there."

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Do you have stories relating to the Kinnelon Friendship Quilt that you'd like to share - perhaps additional details about those who created the Kinnelon Town Comforter?
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