World Trade Center Memorial Quilt Project gives Rotary presentation

Published 8:45 am Friday, March 1, 2019

DOWAGIAC — Thursday afternoon, while the Dowagiac Rotary Club was waiting for its weekly lunch presentation to begin, one Rotarian asked, “Do you remember where you were on 9/11?” The question is commonplace in U.S. post-Sept. 11, 2001. While many remember that day the country was attacked by hijacked planes, not all remember the countless efforts and projects that were started to recuperate and heal a hurting country. On Thursday, the Dowagiac Rotary Club heard from Beverly Kuemin, a Niles woman who is traveling the country to remind its citizens of one healing effort from the early days after 9/11.

In 2015, Kuemin was sent 300 quilts, knitted and stitched with quilt blocks from over 30 countries. The red white and blue quilts of various designs and patterns are the legacy of Amy Sue Leasure, an avid quilter who began a memorial quilting project in the days following 9/11. The quilts were dedicated to the victims of the attacks, and today the quilts have the names of the thousands of victims. Leasure died from cancer in 2002, but her quilts were passed on to Brian Kohler who finished the project in 2004, and later passed them on to Kuemin.

Since taking on the role of “keeper of the quilts,” Kuemin has taken them to one show a year until she received a corporate sponsor in June of 2018. She now has a trailer and racks and will be taking all 300 quilts on a week-long tour beginning at the end of April in Illinois. The tour will take Kuemin north through Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula and back to mid-Michigan.

For her shows, Kuemin sets up the quilts in numerical order and has a database that allows people to find a victim’s name on a specific quilt. The database also allows people to find a block they donated when the quilts were being sewn.

“Every show I’ve had someone looking for someone’s name,” Kuemin said.

Setting the quilts up for shows takes significant manpower, according to Kuemin. Setting up the tall display racks and mounting each quilt can take hours, depending on how much help she has, and the teardown is no easy task either. The exhibit is usually in the space the size of the average fairground warehouse, about 70 feet by 140 feet.

Kuemin has big hopes for the memorial quilts.

“I’m wanting to go around the states at least. This year is my first time really traveling, I’ll be on the road for six weeks,” she said.

Her closest 2019 show for interested Michiganders will be in August at the Quilt Week Show in Grand Rapids. She is looking forward to the traffic that the exhibit will have from the show.

“People come from around the country for that show, and I think they need to see this,” Kuemin said.

To learn more about the 9/11 memorial quilts, readers can visit the 9/11 Memorial Quilt Project Facebook page, or contact Beverly Kuemin by calling (269) 683-4497.