WWII veteran receives handmade quilt for his 95th birthday

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Navy veteran Frank Ridenhour receives a quilt on his 95th birthday from Quilts of Valor Temecula, thanking him for his service. Valley News/Lexington Howe photo

Navy veteran Frank Ridenhour, who served during World War II, will turn 95 Saturday, Aug. 22, and receive a handmade quilt for his service.

Ridenhour served from 1943-1946 on the USS Lexington as an electrician’s mate.

Charlotte Matthews, who has volunteered with Quilts of Valor for five years, gave out 13 quilts in 2019 to those who have served.

“It’s mostly for people who have been touched by war,” Matthews said.

Quilts of Valor doesn’t charge for the quilts.

“We find somebody who needs one, wants one, and we make it and then we present it,” Matthews said.

Quilts of Valor Temecula creates quilts for those who have served in the military. They are all made by volunteers. Valley News/Lexington Howe photo

If they can get the material donated, that’s best, according to Matthews, otherwise they go out on their own to purchase it.

“Generally, someone will take a kit and it’s got all the pieces in it and the pattern, and they’ll make the top,” Matthews said. “Once it’s finished, a kit is usually a quilt top, and then it goes to the quilter who volunteers her time to quilt it and that takes time.”

Quilting can be time consuming, she said.

“These women usually quilt for a living, and they’re taking five hours basically every quilt that they do,” Matthews said.

Cyndee O’Brien, who is also a member of Quilts of Valor Temecula, said she enjoys it.

“It gives us a lot of pleasure coming and doing that and knowing that we’re going to give it away to someone who really deserves it.”

All in all, the process of making the quilt top can take anywhere from four to 20 hours to sew together, depending on how complicated it is.

“It takes five, six hours to quilt it because they’re usually done on a machine and then you have to bind it,” Matthews said.

After that, the label is put on in accordance with who is receiving the quilt.

“There’s a small ceremony to it,” Matthews said. “In some cases when my commander did it, he made a presentation about how many WWII veterans we still have. The majority of the label gets read to the recipient and usually starts off with ‘Welcome home.’”

Ridenhour said the first time he was thanked for his service as a veteran was in 2009, when a young boy at the Veterans Affairs office saw his hat that said USS Lexington on it and thanked him.

The quilts are created by volunteers. Quilting can range from five to six hours, while sewing the quilt top can take four to 20 hours, depending on how complicated it is. Valley News/Lexington Howe photo

Quilts of Valor Temecula has been working from a new location for the past few months, thanks to the Temecula Quilt Company which allowed them to use the space.

The group had a few setbacks due to COVID-19, but they’ve begun to make quilts again, according to Matthews.

“My first quilt was to a 90-year-old, one of our WWII veterans,” Matthew said. “My second one was also a WWII veteran.”

To find out more about Quilts of Valor Temecula or to volunteer, visit qovf.org.

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at lhowe@reedermedia.com.