Please share your favorite memories and stories about Pam with us!
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For the first story, we are honored to share this excerpt from an email- from Pam to her daughter Amber:
This is a copy of a speech I wrote in 2002 for a Mother-Daughter Supper with the theme “American Girl.” Becky attended the supper with me. I wanted to reveal a little bit of my soul, so I hope you’ll be able to feel the emotion as you read through it. I love you.
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Mothers, daughters, I’ve been a member of Santa Sophia Parish for five years now and it’s my pleasure to spend a few minutes with you this evening telling you about myself .
Linda Crabtree invited me to speak about my crafts nearly a year ago now. I’ve tried my hand at everything from woodworking, pottery making, painting, stamping, paper making, rug braiding and hooking Aunt Philly’s toothbrush rug, book making, doll making, basket weaving, quilting and everything in between.
These handcrafts have been shared by mothers and daughters throughout the centuries. I can not tell you about all of these tonight, so I decided to share this American girl’s journey to quilting. My story begins when I was a child and threads through my life to where I am now. I will tell my story through the eye of a needle.
On a small farm in rural Minnesota, needle observes tiny scraps of fabric being clumsily guided through the presser foot of the machine to become the next change of costume for my Tammy doll. (She was the more proportionally correct sister doll to Barbie.) I was ten years old. The needle continued joining cloth pieces together, however these pieces were much larger. What’s this? A dress for the high school dance. A junior prom dress with Leg-o-mutton sleeves was one of the next projects.
Needle drew her thread to the big city of Minneapolis and before long was at work altering the hem of my student nurses uniform. With more time than money, needle stitched up rag dolls for youngest brother and sister’s Christmas presents. Using increased ability, a flower girl’s dress for little sister was fashioned out of velvet.
Needle moved back to rural Minnesota and had the pleasure of pushing thread through denim to patch my young husband’s favorite jeans. I was twenty years old. Needle was used to join fabrics together to yield work clothes for me. With practice and increased confidence, Roman shades and curtains are assembled and installed in our brand new home in Medford.
With excited anticipation, needle was sewing maternity clothes and joining soft flannel pieces together to make baby sleepers. My first attempt at quilting, A puppy dog quilt was amateurly, but lovingly assembled.
Andy is born.
Bumper pads, bibs and soft baby toys are among the next projects. Little boys shorts, tee shirts and pants passed under the needle.
Soon needle was pulling thread through pink flannel and ruffles made their way on to the scene. Amy enters our life. Although I didn’t make Amy’s quilt, she loved this one so much she wore it out, so Baby quilt repairs were observed and new projects to decorate a room got their stitches.
What? Says needle? More pink? Yes, another child is due and to our joy, Amber is born. Needle continued creating familiar baby garments and now toddlers clothes. I was thirty years old.
Needle poked its way through a little boy’s corduroy Easter suit and frilly dresses for the girls with great ease.
What’s this? Another baby quilt? Yes, but this is for the missions. There were countless other mission projects that followed.
Needle had plenty of experience with children’s clothes, so entries were made for the county fair. Blue ribbons rewarded the effort.
Needle worked its way through 100 yards of gray sweatshirting that was a gift from a loving and supportive husband. You see, I loved to sew so much the best possible gift for me was excessive amounts of fabric. For approximately seven years, custom sewing and dressmaking was accomplished by needle.
Doll clothes passed under the needle again, but this time for Cabbage patch dolls. Needle worked tirelessly at Christmas time sewing gifts and pajamas for family, nieces and nephews.
A denim quilt was a hit with our teen age son. Off to college it traveled with him.
Daughters took some of needle’s efforts with them on their journeys as exchange students.
When a best friend’s mother died, needle experienced the first of hundreds of memory teddy bears created from a loved one’s garments. I was forty years old.
Needle worked through more scraps to create quilts for pleasure and decoration of the couple’s third home which housed the family for a year. This little quilt is made entirely from garments which were in the house when we moved there.
Two thousand miles from its first experience, needle is in San Diego, California joining fabrics for curtains again. Needle has sewn table clothes, napkins, pillows and pillow cases, slip covers, and is teaching other’s the same. Quilting has become one of the greatest passions though. The excitement and thrill of working in a quilt shop and experiencing all of the textures and combinations they are capable of creating continues to stimulate the desire to sew.
Needle has witnessed clumsy children’s fingers grow with confidence, ability and skill through the years. Needle is proud to have been a part of a blue ribbon quilt entered at the Del Mar Fair. Needle also swells with pride to have participated in the construction of quilts published in two books and a national magazine. I am fifty years old.
Needle says “What’s happening to me? Once again joining soft flannel strips to make a baby quilt, but the fingers guiding the cloth are inexperienced, unsure. There are unfamiliar starts and stops. Aaaaah. It’s my daughter Amber, the next generation, sewing a baby quilt and sleeper for a friend.
Here we go again.
* * *
My very first babysitting job was for Pam and Jerry. My friend was their regular babysitter and one occasion when Pam asked her to sit for them she couldn’t. She gave them my name. I had never babysat for anyone other than my own younger siblings. I had never met Pam and Jerry before but knew of them through church. I was excited but scared to do it since Amber was very young and still in diapers, but I jumped at the chance.
Pam was such a lovely woman, very sweet and kind and she made me feel comfortable right away like she was someone that I had known a lot longer. She made their home a warm and welcoming place that I loved coming to. Whenever other families in Medford would ask me to babysit, I would wait a bit to answer in case Pam would need me that same time. It was like my “home away from home”.
I have a warm spot in my heart for not only Pam, but the entire Kay family, and I always will.
Pam, I feel blessed that you invited me into that time in your life and I will cherish it always.
Peggy (Yetzer) Sheldon
When I was in fifth grade, mom spent weeks helping me practice for the spelling bee. She got the big dictionary out of the living room and we went through it word by word. Lots of the words were easy to spell. But there were many that I didn’t even know! She would read the definition and make sure I understood it, have me define it back to her and spell it a few times. That year, I got Second Place in the Medford School spelling bee and ever since then, I’ve had a pretty good vocabulary too! Thanks Mom!!
I met Pam when she joined our all-volunteer San Diego Quilt Show committee. What year? l am not sure. However, as l was to find out, she jumped in with both feet.
Pam served SDQS in many capacities over the years, wearing many hats. I always appreciated her honesty, loyalty, and hard work. If she said she would do something, it was done with flair and completeness. She also got Jerry involved, and his help was invaluable to the organization. She brought others in to the organization as well.
Over the years, l would come to know her abundant caring and generosity, and enjoyed our friendship outside of the quilt show. I truly miss her and thank Jerry and the rest of her family for sharing her with us.
Rest in peace to a fabulous and creative human being.
Being the first and best exchange student in Medford , I couldn’t have found a better family and especially American mom to stay with. But I wasn’ t surprised since she had Dutch roots, being a Maas, the river that actually runs through my hometown. The year went by so quickly and Pam really was my mother and since then has been. I must say I was surprised to see them a few weeks later in Holland, to visit me. Pam, Jerry and I took a fun trip up the Rhine river. I will miss her with all of my heart and there she will live forever and will not be forgotten. I was fortunate to speak to her two weeks ago. So blesssed to have met her and am proud to be her “oldest Dutch” son.
Love always, Dimitri
The Richfield, Utah quilting group members are really sad at the passing of our dear friend. We loved taking classes from her. We enjoyed the classes, quilts, and baskets. We will miss her smile and her happy outlook on life.
Pam was resourceful. She noticed useful qualities in all forms, be it fibers and fabric or attention-to-detail or attributes in people! And she collected us all.
Challenger: She loved to be pushed to new things and new levels of creativity. At a wholesale fabric mart, she challenged me to buy two yards of the same fabric and to make two items in two weeks. Working full time, I didn’t have time for that … but found myself saying yes to Pam. At two weeks, we both had a travel quilt each. I made a travel bag, she made a teddy bear and we both said, “Show me how to make THAT!”
Mystery: I also joined her for a couple of one-day mystery quilt sessions at her church. I specifically told her I didn’t like basket or medallion quilts and that’s why I shied away from mystery quilts, because you don’t know what you are investing in until it is too late. And her comment was, “It’s always a mystery, until it gets done!” Yes, it was a basket quilt that year, but I never would have done one without her.
SDQS Secretary: She also drafted me into the San Diego Quilt Show one year as Secretary/Treasurer … the old, ‘a couple of hours, a couple of meetings’ ploy. Pay Pal was new back then and the group was going to try it out while also accepting checks that year; she was so excited. On top of the payment challenge, I soon learned my computer was not compatible with the programs left on the laptop by the previous secretary. Again, Pam talked me into the impossible and made me feel like I could achieve it.
There were late nights at Charlotte’s Web Temecula retreats, where I was still sewing and you and Barb would talk into the wee hours about every subject under the sun. Yes, the wine punctuated the conversation and always provided the ability to dive a little deeper.
Pam showed me Primitive stitching was acceptable, and an art form, that we can love black crows and materials that don’t match, and that there is nothing wrong with having too many zippers (used or new) — there is a purpose for everything, if only to show us we always have a choice.
We have two dates we didn’t keep, Pam. One was an afternoon of showing me how you long arm quilt, the other was a road trip to Los Angeles for supplies to make our own leather shoes. Those will have to wait.
Pam Kay, thank you for opening your home, your studio, and your heart to me over the years. I consider myself a member of your life’s stash.
Much love and appreciation –
P.S. She even got me to try sauerkraut and sausage casserole! “C’mon Debby, you’ve never had mine so how do you know you don’t like it?!!” That woman could talk me into anything …
I am not sure how I found Pam. Online maybe? She came to teach us to make baskets for my birthday one year in my daughters back patio. I caught the bug and had her at least 3 more times to teach a class for us. She was a wonderful teacher, patience, kind and helpful. Because of her I have handmade baskets all over my home, my daughter’s home and have gifted many. I think of her when I set eyes on these baskets. I also quilt and have sewn since a child so we had that in common. I haven’t seen her since our last class many years ago but Pam is one of those people you don’t forget once you’ve met her.
Christine Kelly Imperial Beach, CA
Dear Pam – “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Nine hundred, seventy one ticks on the wall pales in comparison to the love shown by your beautiful children in their videos and eulogy of your life story.
I lost my husband Jeff to cancer in 2009 at the age of 56. He had been on Sharp Hospice, & I was told I could order a Memory Bear made from a piece of his clothing, which I did. I wanted more memory bears for our children, & I asked how I could get some. Sharp Hospice gave me Pam Kay’s number. They said she was the wonderful & talented person who had created the Memory Bears & taught others how to make them. I called Pam, & I was so impressed & comforted by her kindness & empathy. She made 2 beautiful memory bears for 2 of our children from Jeff’s T-shirts. She told me that she also made Memory Quilts out of clothing. She made 6 beautiful quilts for our children, grandchildren, & Jeff’s brother from Jeff’s clothing. I have the Memory Quilt she made on my bed all of the time. It’s beautiful & comforting. I proudly show it to visitors. When my daughter-in-law’s mom passed away, Pam made a beautiful Memory Quilt for my daughter-in-law. I went to Pam’s beautiful studio numerous times with my daughter & daughter-in-law when Pam was making the quilts for us. She was so proud of her studio & told us how her husband had built it for her. She spoke so lovingly & proudly of her husband & children. My daughter & I loved going to her studio & talking to her & seeing the projects she had completed & the ones she was working on. She took pictures of us with our quilts. Several times she had girls at her studio that she was patiently teaching how to sew & quilt. I could tell that the girls were really enjoying the lessons. Pam was a wonderful, talented, & artistic person with a beautiful spirit & a strong faith. I am so sorry to hear of her passing. I think of her every time I look at my quilt which is every day. I will never forget her & the comfort she gave my family & me with the bears & quilts she made for us. I want to offer my deepest sympathy to her husband & children. You will be in my thoughts & prayers.
God bless you.
Late summer 1990 I made a trip back to
Minnesota from California for a visit. I had started to make a baby quilt
and took the unfinished project to Pam as I needed a ruffle around the
edge. After Pam made and attached the ruffle, there was some extra
fabric. Pam suggested she would use a new pattern for a bear to use
the remaining fabric. Thus, Pam made the first bear for my daughter
Kaitlin this bear was kept in her crib until she outgrew the crib and was
in a “big girls” bed and I put it away for a possible grandchild’s crib.
Then Pam used the pattern to make memory bears, the first incident
was her son’s friend who died as a result of a motorcycle accident. She
fashioned the bears out of his clothing. These bears became
remembrance and comfort to the relatives and friends of the people
who had passed. Pam subsequently taught classes at hospices for
patient’s family. Over the last 30 years I believe Pam made more than a
1000 bears and through the classes countless more were made that
made their way across the entire USA.
Last year when I was in San Diego with Pam we had been out for the
day and just got home for some refreshments and then to have dinner.
Pam had been playing email tag then phone tag with a woman who
wanted a bear made from her father-in-law’s suits for her husband’s
milestone birthday and need to be done by the next day. Pam spoke to
the woman and reluctantly agreed to make it…The next day the woman
came to pick up the bear. Pam had put the remaining material from the
suit and the bear in a plastic bag. I was in the studio when the woman
arrived….she carefully lifted the bear out to examine it. As she silently
looked at the bear the tears rolled down her face, which caused both
Pam and I to tear up. Such a beautiful moment. That is what the
memory bears meant to the people who received them.
I have now passed bear #1 to my granddaughter Piper…and hopefully
Piper will pass it on to her daughter to remember her Great Aunt Pam.
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