“Living” COVID-19 pandemic memorial honors lives lost

Suzi Gough is shown laying out tributes for the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance "living" COVID-19 pandemic memorial banner.

Credit: contrib

Credit: contrib

Suzi Gough is shown laying out tributes for the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance "living" COVID-19 pandemic memorial banner.

This year has been nothing short of countless crossroads.

COVID-19 has taken the lives of over 200,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There were a lot of people dying. You couldn’t get near those dying and so many were becoming lost and forgotten,” said Executive Director of the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance Suzi Gough. “It didn’t seem right and thought there should be some way to keep these memories alive, to indicate the enormity of the problem."

In reading the ‘Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle,' the quote ‘the makers of AIDS quilts humanized lost loved ones who were anonymized as statistics’ resonated with Gough. “There were so many parallels between the AIDS crisis and the pandemic,” she said.

Reaching out to Chrissy Weeks, a volunteer and technical advisor for Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals, Gough shared her thoughts.

Inspired by the AIDS quilt, they contacted Mike Smith, a co-founder of the Name Project AIDS Memorial Quilt Project. They learned from Smith that each panel of the AIDS quilt was three-feet by six-feet, representing the size of a grave. Each quilt was comprised of 48,000 panels.

Wanting this project to be manageable for travel and exhibiting, the “tribute” size of seven by nine inches was selected. “It was not a random choice. It is the size of a surgical face mask,” Gough noted.

Sixty-three tributes, seven columns and nine rows, would make up one banner.

“The only guidelines to making a tribute is the finished size and should include the tribute’s name,” the director said. “Any textile technique – felt, knit it, embroidery, applique – for example. Anything you feel capable of doing and best represents the person.”

“While we would like for it to be people who one has known personally, it is not a requirement in making a tribute for the banner,” Weeks said.

Joan Gleckler knows no one personally who has died of COVID-19, but felt making tribute panels for the banners was something she could do to acknowledge each precious life. This tribute commemorates Col. Steve dePyssler, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was the only known American to have served in four wars. He died 4 days after his 101st birthday. He was from Haughton, LA.

Credit: contributed

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Credit: contributed

A database will be kept of who made each tribute and why it was made.

“We wanted a way to show others how many people had been lost. For people who are grieving, make something tactile that would help them grieve, but also provide a memory of their lost ones,” Gough said.

For more info on the project or making a tribute, contact Suzi Gough at 678-235-4328 or visit https://fiberartsalliance.org/pandemic-banner-project/

Each Sunday we write about a deserving person or charity events such as fun-runs, volunteer projects and other community gatherings that benefit a good cause. To submit a story for us to cover, email us at ajc.doinggood@gmail.com.