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Woman Makes Quilt from Found WWI Letters Home

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Photo Credit: The Plymouth Wicked Local

Story originally published in Plymouth Wicked Local.

Bobbie Sullivan had no idea how life would change when her neighbor handed her a box of old letters back in 1994, which he had found four years prior in the attic of his 19th-century home.

The letters were written in 1917 and 1918 by a young Joseph St. Lawrence, an engineer that was stationed in France during World War I. Each one of the 39 letters were addressed to 21-year-old Kathleen “Kitty” Lally, with the exception of two that she had written back to him. They spoke of the weather, the war, music and more, leaving the relationship between the two up to the readers’ imagination.  

“To me, the letters show the charm of the regular people,” Bobbie, an accomplished quilter, told the Plymouth Wicked Local. “Joe and Kitty were not anyone famous, and their letters were probably very typical of the type of things that went on during war.”

After spending an entire weekend reading and then photocopying the letters, Bobbie knew exactly what she wanted to do with them. She then conducted extensive research on Joe and his unit, visited the town where he resided before war, and also visited his gravesite. Once her research was done, Bobbie had a vision for a quilt.

The 6-by-5-foot quilt took the sewer a year and a half to make. She transferred images of soldiers and script from the letters onto fabric and got to work on “The Letters.” With the American flag as the center of the quilt, Bobbie didn’t hold back on the details. A subtle light to dark gradient represents the horrors of war, while poppy flowers in the lower right hand corner symbolize the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.”

Bobbie’s quilt went on to win several awards in a handful of states. And what happened to the two people who inspired the quilt? Joe was killed in France by a German artillery. Kitty owned a hairdressing shop with her sister up until 1979, when she died at the age of 83.

The emotional connection Bobbie made with these two people from the past was an experience like no other, and something that she will always treasure.

“It is a very special quilt to me,” Bobbie said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever have another experience like that with a quilt.”