This is a story about a book lover, a small-town library, a philanthropist, and a quilt, and how all those things intertwined to enrich a community in a very special way.
Eunice Christianson loved to read, right up to the end of her life at age 98. In addition to reading the Bible “every day of her life,” Eunice especially liked historical fiction. Eunice lived with her daughter, Pat Walker, on a ranch in Central Texas, and twice a month, Pat would drive her mother to the public library housed in an old storefront in the small town of Bertram.
While there, Eunice would select her reading matter for the next fortnight. “She went through about four big books every couple of weeks,” recalled Pat. “The staff at the library got to know her and they would set aside books that they thought she would enjoy. They would order books from other libraries especially for her. They were so kind and thoughtful to her. She loved going to that library!”
Originally from North Dakota, Pat moved to the ranch in the Texas Hill Country when her husband retired from his job with 3M, and Eunice moved in with them. Pat is a quilter, and to make friends and get to know the neighbors, she started a sewing group that would meet in members’ homes on a weekly basis.
One of the women who joined the group was Terry Groeneveld. Terry not only enjoyed learning how to quilt, she also became fast friends with Pat and Eunice. “Eunice was the first person who introduced herself to me at church,” remembered Terry. “She was such a lovely person and we hit it off immediately. She was a big reader—that was something you learned about her right away.”
Keeping a public library going in a rural town with just over 1,000 residents is no easy task, but the Bertram community was passionate about its little library and had big dreams of one day moving it from its makeshift quarters into a dedicated new building. To that end and for many years, they had held soup suppers and bake sales and all manner of fundraisers, finally accumulating enough money to buy a parcel of land, and then continuing on to establish a library building fund.
Joann Cole grew up in Bertram. When she graduated from high school in the 1940s, she went to Southwest Texas State Teachers College, where she met and married Roy Mitte. Although both Roy and Joann started out as schoolteachers, Roy later started his own insurance company and the couple eventually amassed a fortune.
In 1994, they established the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation, and promoting literacy was one of the foundation’s core objectives. In a happy series of events, the Mitte Foundation, upon learning of the Bertram community’s determination to build a library, decided to bestow a $2 million grant to their founder’s hometown for that purpose. The beautiful 8,500 square-foot Joann Cole Mitte Memorial Library opened its doors in January of 2011, and is the pride of the Bertram community.
Unfortunately, Eunice Christianson did not live to see that day, but her friend, Terry Groeneveld, decided to do something to commemorate Eunice’s love of the Bertram library. She made a delightful pictorial wall quilt depicting symbols of Eunice’s adopted state of Texas and she gave it to the library in Eunice’s honor. Today the quilt hangs in a special place in the children’s reading area of the new library.
Both the quilt and the library that houses it are reminders not only of the importance of literacy in everyone’s life, of the power of friendship, and of the remembrance of home ties, but also of what can be accomplished when people work together as a community to realize a dream.
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Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
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Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
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