‘A piece of history’

Quilt ties past to present

Juniata Church of the Brethren has had some special celebrations in the past few years, but none as unique as the one the members are planning for April 29.

It is going to hold a homecoming for all those who signed a pink and white quilt more than 50 years ago that was assembled by the Talent Class and presented to the Rev. Roy Myers and his family as a Christmas gift in 1965.

The church did not even know the quilt existed until last year.

Don Myers, a son of the former and now deceased pastor, was downsizing when he came across a box that contained the quilt, which is suitable for a double bed, and gave it to the church. Its pattern features pink crosses with white center squares. Each square includes a hand-written and hand-stitched name of a church attendee at the time — 459 in all.

“Come and see your name,” said the Rev. Robert Wharton, pastor of the church at 306 N. Ninth Ave. He explained that the celebration will begin with a 10:30 a.m. worship service and will be followed by a social hour with an anniversary cake and coffee. Bibles dating back to 1865 will be on display.

Although many of the church members whose signatures are on the quilt are deceased, their descendants and family members are invited to search for their names. A few months ago, a visitor who attended the church as a child was excited when she found her name. She contacted her husband to come see it, and they took a picture, Wharton said.

Linda Ermin of Altoona found her Aunt Violet Worley’s name. Her aunt has passed away, but Linda remembers going to church together when she was young. She added that the Rev. Myers officiated at her wedding to her husband, Howard, and they are active members of the church.

“It’s beautiful,” Linda said of the quilt, “It’s a piece of history.”

Indeed, looking over the textile, Wharton points to names and recalls people’s ties to the church or community.

Among them is the name of Guy Fern, who grew up in the church and was ordained to the ministry there.

Before he died, he pastored churches in Ohio and was pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Altoona for about 10 years as well as serving at Fairview Church of the Brethren between Martinsburg and Williamsburg, Wharton said.

He also pointed to the name of Elsie Nash, who had a twin brother. They used to attend services together. She moved to a nursing home in Bedford and recently died, Wharton said.

The names of James Nelson and his son, Richard, are close to each other on the one-of-a-kind bedspread. Wharton said James Nelson was one of the founders of the church and had a produce market on Old Sixth Avenue Road.

Even the name of the church — Juniata Park Church of the Brethren — stitched into the uppper left corner relates a piece of the past. According to a book on Church of the Brethren history called, “Out of the Wilderness,” the church was formally organized on April 26, 1907, and the 59 members adopted the name “Juniata Park.” It was shortened to Juniata in the late 1960s.

Wharton said the church celebrated its 100th anniversary of its organizing in 2007 and the 100th anniversary of the building in 2005. It celebrated the 50th anniversary of its addition in 2016.

Now it plans to celebrate again with a reunion weekend featuring the displayed work of art. It hangs from the balcony, and Wharton said plans are to lower it about a foot to provide more access to the names. Board chairman Bernie Faust, treasurer Howard Ermin and choir director Nancy Robinson did the necessary work to make the display possible. Robinson sewed tabs on the top of the quilt so it could be hung from a dowel rod that was secured by Faust and Ermin.

“I like it,” said Faust, “but it was a job hanging it.”

“It’s gorgeous,” said Ermin as he contemplated how many hours the women spent stitching the names. He added that it looks like everyone personally signed it because each signature is unique.

“It’s overwhelming,” Wharton said. “All the names. It’s amazing.”