The hall is long, and all the doors are closed. You know there are individuals behind those walls, each with an interesting story to tell. Some doors are decorated; one has a lace fan unfurled. Another shows a framed prayer. Many have wreaths, and here is one with a quilted wall hanging. I admire it.
Yet another pass through the hall, on still another day, and the quilt has been replaced. This time I pause for a closer inspection. Everything has been made exclusively by hand. I observe the tine stiches, the choice of fabrics, the blending of colors, the scallop finishing on the binding, and the overall design. As a former quilter, I am impressed. I take note of the name beside the doorway and move on.
At home, inside my closed door, I recall the name – Geraldine Waterhouse. There has often been a ribbon carefully pinned inside these articles of needlework. They range from “honorable mention” to “blue”, and there is more than one of them, quite a few as a matter of fact. This is indeed the work of an artist. Gathering my courage about me, I look up her name and call her. We make an appointment to meet. I also call a photographer to meet us there.
Gerry, her two daughters, the photographer, and I stumbled over and around each other for the next hour or so as we became acquainted with the warm, welcome atmosphere in which we found ourselves. We learned that Fred and Gerry met at a church picnic. Following his military service in World War II, they were married in a double wedding ceremony (with her sister and her husband) in 1950. They were 21 and 26 respectively. He was employed by New York Bell Telephone Company as an engineer, while she did secretarial work. Fred worked with the telephone company team to establish the 911 system. He was a faithful participant in barbershop quartets, singing mostly baritone and sometimes tenor. He was always in good voice and always happy to sing.
They lived in New Jersey for the next 30 years along with their three beautiful children, two girls Eileen and Carol, and one son Fred Jr. Eileen graduated from college and taught Health and Physical Education at Turner Ashby High School, as well as English as a Second Language. She now resides in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Carol served for 29 years in Friends Homes, a Quaker retirement facility in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the dietary department. She now works at VMRC in Harrisonburg in the same capacity. She also lives in Harrisonburg. Fred Jr. died at 48 years, a victim of lung cancer. Gerry, as a stay-at-home mom, applied her needle diligently to her embroidery whenever possible, leaving a bountiful treasure trove of keepsake items, including a portrait of all five of them rendered in embroidery floss.
Arriving at last to retirement age, Fred and Gerry sought a warmer climate with less snow and lower taxes. They relocated to Greensboro, North Caroline in 1985. Shortly thereafter Gerry was invited by a friend to join an adult quilting class. From there she attended the Greensboro Technical Community College for five years, learning everything possible from a beloved teacher who was a believer in quilting by hand. With the exception of Sunday, Gerry devoted a little time each day to her quilting art. Her first sampler was completed in 1987, and for the next 26 years she could be found plying her needle with remarkable success. Both in embroidery and quilting, her work was a labor of LOVE. An artful blessing for all. Please enjoy the slide show of Gerry’s quilts!
--by Gini Reese, with photos by Mary Rouse