Fourteen years ago, Mary Blais’ son Christopher, newly commissioned as a Naval officer, received his first orders to Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. “I wanted to know all about where he was going,” Mary recalled. “I googled the town and, while looking at the base’s website, and I came across a mention of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. I looked into it and learned that the Budget for Baby program provides handmade baby quilts to expectant parents who participate. I thought, ‘That’s something I can do!’”
Since that day, Mary has sewn nearly 150 unique quilts for Navy and Marine Corps babies. “Each child is an individual, so every quilt should be different,” she explained. “I never make two the same. There are so many fabrics and patterns available that it’s not hard to come up with new designs. I take pictures of all my quilts to make sure each one is original.”
Mary also enjoys embroidery, so all her quilts include embroidered panels. Each quilt is based on a theme, usually connected with a children’s book. “I’m big on literacy, so I’ll make a Mother Goose themed quilt and send it with a Mother Goose book, or a quilt with Winnie the Pooh fabric and a Winnie the Pooh book. I hit book sales whenever I can!” One of her favorite quilts had a Winnie the Pooh theme and featured this quote: “Remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.”
When she was a little girl, Mary’s grandmother taught her how to quilt and embroider, but Mary didn’t practice her skills again until she was in her 20s. “I realized I love seeing something beautiful appear on the fabric.”
Mary typically creates and sends two baby quilts each month from her home in Oklahoma to NMCRS Groton. Although her son has moved around with the Navy—he’s currently stationed in the Pentagon—she has maintained her relationship with the Groton office, which is always grateful to receive her beautiful creations.
Retired from her work in the Tulsa Public Schools, Mary quilts and embroiders. whenever she has spare time. “I can’t imagine watching a sporting event on TV without a needle in my hand embroidering. I may be retired, but I do have a job making these baby quilts! It’s important for people to realize that everybody has a talent. Everybody has something they can share with other people.”
Thank you for your beautiful contributions to the Society, Mary!
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso