53, read the story of the young Marine -- abandoned by his wife,
haunted by scenes of war -- in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Aug.
13. Dennis hanged himself March 21, exactly one year after the first
combat Marine deaths in Iraq. "It almost killed me, it made
me so sad -- for someone not even 23 to feel such despair, such
hopelessness," Nebeker said.
cried. She railed. She lay awake at night. And then she took action
-- action that comes full circle today when Nebeker and husband
Clark deliver 100 red, white and blue quilts to Fort Lewis' Madigan
Hospital. Officers there will distribute the quilts to injured soldiers
returned from Iraq.
them crazy quilts. Call her obsessed. Her quilting friends do as
they gather round the dining room table in her airy home overlooking
determined, they say. Driven. First she caught them up in the story
of the rifleman, fired up their passions, then put them to work.
have to do this! Have to do this!" said Katie Plucinski, 62,
retired from The Boeing Co. "It's a personal way to reach out
to these young people."
young people," said Joyce O'Connor-Magee, 47, pastor at Vashon
Island United Methodist Church.
kids!" said Barbara Jansen, 65, also retired from Boeing.
grandkids!" chimed in several.
first action was to call military hospitals to ask how she could
former co-owner of a Seattle social-service agency and now partner
in a long-arm quilting service, has multiple sclerosis, tires easily
and has weakness in her legs. "It turns out I'm useless, except
I can quilt," she said. She thought of the warmth, physical
and emotional, quilts might bring to the war-wounded, who arrive
in hospitals with nothing but pajamas and robes.
she didn't think of, at first, were the sheer numbers of soldiers
injured in Iraq.
statistics on war dead -- 1,067 as of yesterday -- are almost daily
news, the number of injured is not. The latest toll is 7,531 Iraq
coalition soldiers wounded in action.
at Madigan Hospital, an average 10 inpatient soldiers arrive each
a lot of quilts.
no time, Nebeker was calling in the girlfriends, putting up posters
all over the island, activating phone trees and organizing a quilt-a-thon.
The women -- coupon-clipping bargain hunters -- hit fabric stores
all over the Puget Sound area, buying up clearance red, white and
blue fabrics left over from the Fourth of July.
husband gave me a Visa card and tried not to twitch every time I
charged something," said Nebeker, who would heat up the plastic
with more than $1,000 debt by the project's end.
Sept. 10-11, more than 80 people gathered at the island's Methodist
church and set to work -- some on old, broken-down machines Nebeker's
husband, another Boeing retiree, had refurbished.