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Memorial quilt to portray Christmas story

By Staff | Dec 11, 2012

Twenty years after her mother’s death, Lillian ‘Pidge’ Foust constructed the Christmas quilt her mother intended to make. The block containing a bell is held by Mary Marquardt’s great-grandson, Zander Houseknecht.

LUNGERVILLE-The foothills near North Mountain and the hills of the Biblical site of Judea will have something in common this holiday season. The retelling of the first Christmas story some 2,000 years old will be shared with a local story two decades in the making.

Both stories include mothers named Mary, the first being the mother of Jesus and the reason for the Christmas season; the second is of the late Mary Swisher Marquardt who in 1992 planned to construct a Christmas quilt.

The second Mary had retired the previous year and purchased “Christmas Traditions,” a book by Wendy Gilbert.

Already the local Mary possessed skills for the task. She and her late sister-in-law, Louise Botsford Swisher, quilted with the Women’s Missionary Circle at the Friends Church in Hughesville. The group sent numerous quilts to the church’s headquarters in Ohio where they were auctioned and funds forwarded to missions throughout the world.

In addition to having time to make the Christmas quilt during her retirement, she planned making others for her family of two sons and seven daughters.

In 1984, Mary Swisher Marquardt (left) and sister-in-law Louise Botsford Swisher posed with Mary’s granddaughter and the women’s namesake, Mary Louise Houseknecht.

On paper, she traced some of the patterns for the twelve Christmas blocks, but had yet to put scissors to fabric.

Then the unthinkable happened. Mary had a fall and shortly after a blood clot ended her life. Left abandoned were the book, fabric collection and partially finished blocks destined for other projects.

Recently Mary’s daughter, Lillian “Pidge” Foust, found herself with a lull in her life. Now with extra time, she reviewed the traditions book and decided to make the Christmas quilt in her mother’s honor. “Even before I started I had the idea of using it to tell the Christmas story at the church I attend at Lungerville,” Foust said.

For each square, a sample block was made then a copy put into the recently completed quilt. Blocks include a tree, candle, bell, the Star of Bethlehem, an ornament, stocking, home, church, angel, wreath, gift and the word JOY.

Of the church block, the following is printed in the book: “The first Christmas was a creative experience. God performed the unexpected. A baby was born in a rustic stable in Bethlehem. Angels sang, shepherds left their flocks, and wise men began their journey. The spirit of this first Christmas was joy, astonishment, and wonder. Two thousand years later, during the season of Christ’s birth, Christians around the world welcomes Christmas with worship in the church of their choice. Carols, prayers, and the pageantry of the Nativity, remind us of that first Christmas long ago.”

This coming Sunday, all are invited to gather at the Lungerville church Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. where attendees will hear more in depth, the story of two mothers named Mary.

One by one, each block will be auditioned as its symbolism is revealed. Each will be held by a child, some will include the local Mary’s descendants.

Due to her untimely death, the late local quilter left only four quilts to her family. But unlike quilts which can fade and fray, the Christmas story she instilled in her children and grandchildren will be told and retold to future generations.