RIVERTON -- What began as a labor of love and a birthday gift from a mother to her daughter more than 55 years ago came full circle for a local family last year.
Riverton resident Susie Van Camp was going through some personal items that belonged to her parents, Roy and Sally Huffstedler, in late December 2004.
Her parents, now deceased, were long time residents of the Riverton community and for many years owned and operated Huffstedler Store and Canoe Rental. When the business was sold in 1989, Van Camp came into the possession of many of their belongings.
Working and raising a family of her own, Van Camp found little time to go through her parents' belongings. She said she began sifting through the boxes and trunks after Christmas 2004.
"I knew immediately when I opened the trunk what I had found," Van Camp said.
Inside the trunk were 54 quilt blocks. "When I started reading the blocks I knew it was a friendship quilt started by my mother as a birthday gift for my sister Jo Ann," Van Camp said.
Jo Ann had graduated from Alton High School in 1950 and received a scholarship to Mo-Ark College in West Plains.
A friendship quilt is made by a person sending out the quilt blocks to different friends and family members with their names on the block. "If the person that receives the quilt block can embroider they embroider their name into the block. If they can't they get someone else to do the embroidery work and send it back to the person that sent it to them," Van Camp said. She said the blocks are then placed together and the quilt made.
Van Camp said all of the names on the blocks had to do with her sister Jo Ann. "One block said 'Feb. 1951 Mom.' Another block had the name Alberta York, a girl Jo Ann was rooming with at college. All the blocks were close family, college or church friends of Jo Ann's," Van Camp said.
Van Camp said thinks her mother had started making her older sister a friendship quilt for her birthday Feb. 26, 1951, but never finished it. Van Camp was 11 years old at the time. Neither she nor Jo Ann ever knew the quilt blocks existed.
Van Camp called Jim and Dianne Lawrence who live in Garfield. Jim is Jo Ann's stepson. Van Camp said she asked the couple if they would like to have the blocks for Jo Ann.
The Lawrence family took the blocks and Jo Ann Frost from Alton quilted the quilt.
"There were just three blocks that did not have anything written on them. We added the words 'Happy Birthday,' 'Jo Ann,' and '2005 Gift.' All the other words and names on the blocks were the idea of Jo Ann's mother," Dianne Lawrence said.
"It was truly a blessing for us to have been given the opportunity to complete the birthday gift that was started for Jo Ann more than 54 years ago," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said the quilt project became a work of art as both old and young fingers of family and friends stitched their names with love and devotion into one special gift for Jo Ann.
Van Camp and Lawrence think health issues may have prevented Susie's mother from finishing the quilt. She passed away in 1976.
"We are thankful that the trunk made it through the pages of time and was discovered and opened by the hands of someone that cared," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she and her husband included her son Jeff, his wife Sandy and their children Jake and Sara in the project.
"We carefully unfolded each block and read each name. Many memories were brought to mind regarding events that have occurred the past 54 years," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she and her granddaughter Sara, 13, had a good time arranging the blocks before the quilt was made. "It gave us the opportunity to become more acquainted with the Huffstedler side of the family. Jo Ann is the only mother-in-law I have ever known. She is wonderful," she said.
Jo Ann now lives in West Plains. The family has several birthdays in February and they annually get together around Jo Ann's birthday, Feb. 26, for a celebration of everyone's birthday near the same date.
Feb. 26, 2005, was a special birthday for Jo Ann.
The entire Lawrence clan, Jim, Dianne, Jeff, Sandy, Jake and Sara, made their annual trip to Jo Ann's house for her birthday. They were bringing her a special gift and a big surprise.
"I was thrilled and surprised," Jo Ann said. "I never knew the quilt blocks existed. I appreciate the effort made by both Susie and Dianne."
Jo Ann said she keeps the full-size quilt on a bed in her home but she keeps it covered so it doesn't get dirty. She said she hopes to someday find the room in her home for a quilt rack so she can display the quilt.
"It was truly with love and devotion that we gave Jo Ann the quilt. It was began as a gift of love from her mother in 1951 and was completed by us for her birthday in 2005," Lawrence said.