When Nina Wyatt’s son, Master Sgt. Adam Johnson, reached his 20th year in the Air Force and survived a kidney transplant — despite his rare blood type — she wanted to honor him.
As a quilting enthusiast, Wyatt has taken all his previous service fatigues, all his patches he has earned and worn, and stitched them together in honor of his two-decade career of military service.
Originally, Johnson had asked her to make a camping quilt with his service garb, but Wyatt admits to having gotten carried away with her pride for her son.
“For me, it was just fulfilling because he had worn them all. To handle all his uniforms was special for me because it was like he was here,” Wyatt said.
Johnson, an aircraft electrician, will receive his patchwork quilt of various military camouflage when he returns to Wyatt’s Penn Valley home the week of Thanksgiving.
Coming home with him will be his young daughter and wife, who is pregnant and expecting twins.
As far back as when Johnson attended Ready Springs Elementary School, he wanted to join the Air Force to achieve a higher rank than his stepfather, Joe Wyatt, a retired technical sergeant (one rank below master sergeant) who served in Vietnam, he said.
“He stayed true to the course,” said the proud mother.
But Johnson’s career was almost cut short earlier this year when he had difficulty finding a kidney donor compatible with his rare blood type, Nina Wyatt said.
Luckily, a younger service man who was also at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, NM, was a suitable donor, allowing Johnson to continue to serve his country a few more years.
That ordeal gives the quilt an added significance, Wyatt said.
While quilts have served the functional role of hobbled-together blankets since before the Egyptian pharaohs, what is referred to as “Patchwork Quilts” originated in the United States in the 1700s, said Kathleen Heinrichs, who helps coordinate quilts at the Mennonite Quilt Center in Reedley.
“Quilts nowadays are often being given as gifts for special reasons. Sometimes they are made for comfort, warmth or to show love to somebody. They are used for all kinds of things,” Heinrichs said. “All over the world there are magnificent quilters. It has taken over the world by storm.”
Wyatt got interested in quilting in the early ’90s, when a cousin introduced her to it.
Its historical pervasiveness appealed to her, she said, especially connotations to prairie and Western times, when a quilt stitched from old garments and scrap clothes was a valuable asset.
“Growing up, the idea of living on a ranch seemed neat to me. I always wondered what it would be like to live back then,” Wyatt said.
As an adopted and only child, a large family has always appealed to her, she said. With more than 50 quilts under her belt, she hopes her gift to her son will carry on that design, passing on to future generations the legacy of her son’s service to his country.
“It will be an heirloom, something he can pass onto his family,” Wyatt said. “I have never made a quilt that was so heartwarming and so satisfying to me.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.