The Lytle Stitchers quilted for American heroes

Retired Command CMSgt. Ruben Gonzalez coins Vietnam veteran Larry Cromer, as wife Dee Cromer watches, in grateful appreciation for the many quilts made by them and their friends.

Quilting for a cause more worthy than they could possibly have imagined, for two years, some 12 to 20 ladies called The Lytle Stitchers convened weekly in Lytle, TX, to machine-stitch quilts in an assembly-line fashion, quilts that would wind up comforting wounded service men and women overseas. This took place at Kalico and Keepsakes, a shop operated by Dee and Larry Cromer. As Dee expressed it, “We did not want any of our service people coming back without knowing that people cared for them,” unlike the way her husband, Larry, was received upon his returning from Viet Nam. The Kalico and Keepsakes shop is now closed, but the ladies who participated in this noble project – who are among thousands all over the US who still make and send quilts overseas – made thousands of quilts over a period of two years.
Dee explained that to achieve such a feat, she knocked on a lot of doors and visited a lot of manufacturers for donations of fabric. And she adds that folks were very generous when they learned the cause. The quilts were boxed and sent to Wilford Hall Hospital, and from there, they were distributed along with medical supplies by the Red Cross to Afghanistan and Iraq and even Germany. The quilters found the cause to be not only worthy for our service men and women but therapeutic for themselves. Dee says, “It’s great therapy to be doing something and making something beautiful for someone else. It just makes you feel good.”
As for how it made recipients feel, Lytle Alderman Ruben Gonzalez has a story to share that, as he states, “closed the loop with the quilters.” It was back in 2009-10 that
Command CMSgt Gonzalez was stationed in Baghad, serving his one-year deployment, when he visited the hospital in Balad Air Base. This was the major hospital where everyone who was injured was sent. In the entrance to the hospital, a quilt hanging on the wall caught his eye. He then noticed that there was a similar quilt on every bed, covering every wounded warrior, every soldier injured from IEDs and blasts, etc.
Ruben then inquired about the quilts, picked one up, and saw a tag with the names of the ladies who had stitched them. The tag said, “To an American Hero from The Lytle Stitchers”. Ruben says, “It just happened that those quilts being used that day were from Lytle, TX, and he further learned that as the injured were transported, they took the quilts with them.
Ruben shares that the quilts themselves, as told from those who were actually there and had received the quilts, made them feel that they were closer to home. He further states,
“Service members recover quicker when they feel safe, remember what they are sacrificed for, and know that they are loved by a great country.” And he adds that these quilts did just that.
Because Ruben and his wife had decided some year prior that they would settle in the South Texas area when he left the service, once seeing the Lytle tag, Ruben felt that God had directed them to Lytle, based on the experience of encountering those quilts. So, Ruben is now living in Lytle, by what he believes is a God appointment, where he had a chance to personally meet those people who had made the quilts and had a chance to personally share the effects of the quilts on the service persons.
Ruben adds, “Who knew that years later I would have a chance to meet these people who actually made this happen.”
It was nice of Franklin and Pam Wanjura to help make this happen by getting the three together this week at their home in Lytle.
By Kathleene Runnels