Kathy Rhoads Long is picking up the thread of her late mother, Grace Rhoads, by quilting her mother's 2009 Blue Ribbon-winning quilt patch into a wall hanging for the 2010 Carbon County Fair.
Mrs. Rhoads entered a quilt contest with the theme "Pennsylvania's Finest," at the 2009 Carbon County Fair. Her fruit-themed patch gained her the first prize blue ribbon. Her daughter garnered third place with an autumn-themed quilt patch. Rhoads passed away this year.
"I had five deaths in nine months," Long said. This overwhelming wave of grief began with the death of her storytelling partner of nearly 20 years, Bill Couch. "I was holding his hand when he died," she said. "He was very special. He was closer to me than family."
The following week, her aunt, Helen Steigerwalt, passed away. In the beginning of December, her cousin Joan Rhoads died. Five days before Christmas, her husband, Warren Long, died at work. Most recently, her mother died the day before Easter at the age of 84.
"My grandmother was a seamstress; my mother was a seamstress," Long noted. "I used to say, I'll never do that. I can't stand working with the tiny thread.
"Last year, at the Kutztown Folk Festival, a lady showed me how to quilt," Long said.
"If you have spare time in front of the TV at night, you could embroider," her mother had suggested.
Long tried quilting and liked it.
"I've developed this love of quilting. It's almost addictive. I can't stop."
They quilted together, and with the passing of her mother, Long's quilting has taken on a new meaning. She found scraps of vegetable-patterned material from the original swatch that her mother had used in last year's project. She also had her mother's blue ribbon-winning fruit-patterned quilt patch.
Long decided to use her mother's patch and add to it new patches from the vegetable swatches to create a wall hanging. It will be one of four wall hangings Long is creating to help support the Carbon County Fair.
"My mother was a champion of all causes," said Long. "I guess I'm falling in her footsteps. That's why I volunteered to make these. It is my honor."
The deaths in her family struck her at a particularly vulnerable time. For years, Long had worked to become a professional storyteller, and after working all last year to prepare recordings of her stories, she put together her savings and published two CDs "The Legend of Glen Onoko," and "Mangos & Pickles & Spiders, Oh My! Tales for the Holiday Season."
She is working hard to bounce back from the costs and time commitments required to settle the estates.
Meanwhile, Long has been invited as a guest storyteller on the Internet radio program, "Here Women Tell," at herewomentalkradio.com, on Wednesday, Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. The show will review Long's stories, will include an interview, and play a story from her CD.
"Here Women Tell" is hosted by Kris Hillenburg, who contacted Long by e-mail and arranged for a telephone interview. The program focuses on storyteller, singer/songwriter and musician interviews around the world.
Additional information about Kathy Long is available at www.kathylongstoryteller.com. Her storytelling CDs are available at the Jim Thorpe, Lehighton and Palmerton Libraries and selected shops.