Quilt a 75-year labour of love

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When Martha Scheers began work on an ambitious starburst quilt 75 years ago, her children, grandchildren and great-granddchildren were but a gleam in her eye.

At age 97, the Delhi woman recently had the pleasure of sitting with her family as they completed a project she started in her early 20s.

“Our target was to finish by Valentine’s Day, which we did,” granddaughter Debbie Pierssens said. “So hurray for us.

“It was a blast – all of us getting together and sitting with grandma.”

Near the end of the Second World War, Scheers and her sister Julia Barnes carefully cut hundreds of diamond-shaped bits of fabric and hand-stitched some into starburst panels. Along the way, the pair lost the thread and Barnes shelved the project indefinitely.

“Her creation got moved around from here to there,” Pierssens said. “It was forgotten about, re-discovered, moved to a different location, then forgotten about again.


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“At one point, she (Martha) thought it was thrown out and, eventually, she forgot about it.”

The former Martha Gekiere was born in Manitoba to a family that had emigrated from Belgium. They came to southern Ontario near the end of the Depression and set to work in agriculture and carpentry. Family patriarch Amand Gekiere built many of the first-generation kilns that once dotted the landscape in tobacco country.

Martha married the late Steve Scheers and together they set to work farming tobacco.

Always industrious, Martha Scheers also found employment at the former Imperial tobacco and cigarette factories in Delhi as well as the town’s canning factory. Son Gary Scheers, 73, of Simcoe, says his mother and aunt were avid knitters and quilters.

“Both mom and (Julia) were good at this stuff,” he said. “But it was my aunt who put this away.”

A granddaughter came across the quilt while sorting through the estate of Julia Barnes, who died at the age of 101. Once the family knew what they had, they were inspired to do something with it.

The family wasn’t sure what to get Scheers for Christmas, Pierrsens said, so they settled on the gift of time and good company.

Granddaughters and great-grandchildren would gather with Scheers, who supervised the quilt’s completion. The result is a trove of satisfying, sunset memories for the matriarch and a treasured heirloom for her descendants.

“She gets great pleasure seeing her family band together to complete her once-forgotten project,” Pierssens said. “She enjoys listening to the stories and laughter shared around this quilt.

“This hand-stitched piece of fabric has created many precious memories.”