On Tuesday, September 13th, the Forest Acres Quilting Club was excited to award our first Quilt of Valor to Melvin Gottula at the Gold Crest Retirement Center in Adams, Nebraska. Mel served in the Navy during World War II and turned 100- years-old on April 1st of this year. The presentation was held in the reception area at the back of the chapel at Gold Crest. Family members in attendance were Mel's son-in-law, Dan Vanderbeek, and his granddaughter, Jaycie Vanderbeek.
To start the presentation, two of our club members told the audience about the mission of the Quilts of Valor organization which is "to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor." They continued by relating the meaning behind the three layers that are used to construct a quilt. "The top of the quilt with its many colors, shapes, and fabrics, represents the communities and the many individuals we are. The batting, the filler, is the center of the quilt, its warmth. It represents our hope that this quilt will bring warmth, comfort, peace, and healing to the individual who receives it. The backing is the strength that supports the other layers. It represents the strength of the recipient, the support of his or her family, our communities, and our nation. Each stitch that holds the layers together represents love, gratitude, and sometimes the tears of the maker." These quotes can be found on the Quilts of Valor website: www.qovf.org. The presentation concluded with a short biography of Mel's service in the Navy from 1942-1946 on a cargo ship and oil tanker.
Two of our members displayed the quilt during the presentation and then awarded the quilt to Mel. As the quilt was draped over his shoulders, Mel's smile made all of our efforts worthwhile. We could tell that he was very pleased with the award and understood its meaning. Every stitch in this quilt was made with thanks to Mel for his service to our country.
Several VFW members from our community were in attendance at the presentation and stayed to have coffee and cookies with Mel after the awards ceremony. They visited with him for over an hour.
Unfortunately, Melvin fell during the night that same day and was transported to a Lincoln hospital. He passed away three days later on Friday, September 16th, making our presentation even more meaningful to us and those who were present. The quilt was then taken to his daughter, Jan, who was in hospice and passed away on Monday, September 19th. Our quilting club was very thankful to have had the opportunity to award this Quilt of Valor to Mel and his family.
His granddaughter, Jaycie, posted this on her Facebook page regarding the Quilt of Valor presentation: "I am so grateful to have been part of this day with my Grandpa Melvin. He loved being the center of attention and thanked every single person who came up to talk to him. Grandpa took life 'one day at a time,' and was smart and sweet until the end. He will be so missed!" The members of Forest Acres Quilting Club couldn't agree more.