Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bittersweet Blessings

Thirty some years ago I was living in South Africa with alot of time on my hands while my husband worked there.  I've never been a person to let my hands be idle, so when I found an ad for a quilting class I promptly signed up and learned the basics of quilting.  By hand no less.  It was love at first stitch!

 Back in the early 80's quilting was enjoying a revival of sorts, so when I returned to the States, at the urging of my friend Lyn,  I joined a local quilt guild.  The Night Owls.  Heaven.  Loved it.  However, at the tender age of 21, I kinda stuck out like a sore thumb as the very youngest member of the group.  I learned alot from the older ladies who graciously shared thier skills with me, and even taught them a few things as well. (although looking back on it now I think they may just have been encouraging me on my quilting path)

There was one lady in particular who scooped me up and tucked me under her wing.  Helen Relfe invited Lyn and I over to her house to show us a new project.  When we got there she had set up 2 sewing machines, had a pattern and her fabric stash wide open for us to choose from.  WOW!  Helen's generosity and gentle spirit just warmed my heart and made me feel really special.  Lyn and I each made a dimensional  Christmas tree wall hanging that day.  It still hangs in our houses every Christmas.  If it were not packed away in my Christmas boxes I would take a picture of it and post it here.

That day began a life-long friendship between Helen and I.  I so enjoyed visiting with Helen and her husband Walter.  Loved hearing about her journey to the valley from her home in Northwest.  Loved hearing about what Phoenix was like in the early 30's.  Helen and Walter showed me all the best places to get bargains on fabric and quilting supplies.  Helen and I were friends thru thick and thin......the birth of my children, the death of her husband. We shared the love of quilting, exchanged recipes, stories and hollyhock seeds.  One year for Christmas I made gingerbread cookie people and wrote "Helen" and "Walter" on the cookies and put them into bags.  The last time I visited Helen's home those cookie bags were still hanging on the wall.   
My family always say that my stories are too long and I tell too many details, and take too long to get to the point.  (gee, I'm becoming my mother after all! lol)  (love you mom!)

So here is the point to my ramblings......

Helen passed away earlier this month.  She would have been 93 this August.
I went to visit her this week and was told that she had passed.
No one called me.
I missed her funeral.
My heart hurts to have lost her,
but rejoices that she is no longer in pain and
is with her beloved Walter
sitting at the right hand of Jesus.
Bittersweet blessings.

I found this after an online search:

 Helen Strohmaier Relfe

92, of Phoenix, AZ passed away on June 10, 2011. A first generation American, Helen was born in Vida, Montana, August 18, 1918, and married Walter Relfe in Salem, Oregon, on September 11, 1938. Helen's life was characterized by hard work, including employment with the City of Phoenix and the Arizona State House of Representatives. She also gave much time, energy, and resources to serve others throughout her life. She is survived by daughters Carole Lowery and Dorothy Colvin, six grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchild ren. Graveside services will be held on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, at 9:30 AM at Greenwood Memory Lawn, 2300 W. Van Buren.

This is the last picture I took of Helen. 
She was always a lady and always had her lipstick on. 

Rest In Peace
Helen Relfe
August 1918 - June 2011

I miss you Helen, but I will always hold you in my heart.


  1. Oh Tammy, what a beautiful story! How beautiful is to have people so special through our life, that make this full of love. I so sorry that you loss your friend. I want to tell you Tammy, that although it was very little that we shared, I feel that you are a very special friend to me and you don't know how much I wish you were a teacher and friend to me as Helen for you. Thanks for sharing so many beautiful things that happen in your life, though some are a little sad. A big and warm hug for you,


  2. Thanks so much for the wonderfully kind words Sita. They mean alot to me. You are a special lady and friend.