One Quilt at a Time, They Help Fight HIV/AIDS

Connie Sherman
Connie Sherman has helped create a unique quilt in memory of her brother Michael Arnold, who died 20 years ago of AIDS. He grew up in Kansas City and had moved to New York, where he worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries.
�It was a horrible time back in 1991. It was all so new and raw and scary,� Sherman said.

She credits her brother�s friend in New York named David Treara who looked out for her brother when he was sick, helping with his medications and other support.

�He was at his death bed with my sister and brother, who were up in New York at the time. He is even going to try and make it in for the walk in honor of Michael. We still keep in touch with David Treara,� she said.

Michael Arnold worked in Crown Center before moving to New York.

�He loved New York. I went up a couple of times and stayed with him, and we just had a blast.�

Sherman said her brother was openly gay.

�It was tough for him living in Kansas City at that time. And it was tough sharing that with our parents. My mother was accepting of it, my father not so much,� she said.

Arnold was the fifth of the nine children in her family, she said. (One was a younger sister who died when she was 3 days old.) Their mother is still alive, but their father passed away three weeks before Arnold�s death.

�Michael came in for the funeral, and he got pneumonia and died three weeks later. He came in at Christmas and then was in for my father�s funeral in January, and then at that time he was having to give himself IVs. I just remember the pain of seeing him do that,� Sherman said. �Now, from what I�ve read and learned, people are surviving and leading fairly normal lives. It�s wonderful to see the money that has been raised being used toward that.�

Sherman said the quilt was a collaboration with her niece, Jennifer Walters. They used the special T-shirts created each year by AIDS Walk that list the names of people who have died that year.

�We took T-shirts from the last 10 years and made a 5 x 8 quilt of the T-shirts,� she said.

�I�ve always loved the T-shirts. It�s a great reminder of what we do each year.�

Walters cut the shirts out into squares and stitched them together. Another woman, whom they hadn�t known before, did the quilting.

�It�s kind of an interesting story,� Sherman said. �I ran into a woman who had �QuiltLady� as a vanity plate, and I asked her if she quilted and she said �yes.� And I told her the story. She shared it with her quilting buddies, and her friend said, �I�ll do it for free.� So this woman in Louisburg, Kan., Beth Dawson, she did the work for us to be able to give this quilt in honor of all who have died.�

This is not the only quilt her family has created. Her sister Theresa, who, she said, was very close to their brother, created a quilt that travels with the NAMES Project Foundation�s national AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Sherman said she and her family will also be walking in AIDS Walk as part of �Team Arnold,� and their goal is to raise $20,000 to honor the 20th anniversary of her brother�s death.

�There are only four of us on there so far, and I think we�ve raised maybe $6,000. I have to light the fire under all the other family members to get going on that,� she said.

She said they have also walked with a banner in her brother�s name in the procession that leads AIDS Walk.

�We always have a person from the family or a good friend of Michael�s from Kansas City hold the banner, and then we walk it down to Mill Creek Fountain,� she said. �I�ll tell you something � when all of us are standing there right before the walk gets started, to see the white banners blowing in the wind � oh, my gosh. There is a celebration of life. With all the good causes that I give to, this is one that is so close to the heart. I put more time into this than any other.�

Sherman lives in the Waldo area of Kansas City with her husband, Bill Sherman. Her daughter Elizabeth Sherman, who lives in New York, has raised over $1,000 for this year�s walk, and her other daughter, Aly, who is now in Chile teaching English, walked a couple of years ago with a group from Baker University.

�After the walk,� Sherman said, �we all go to the Peanut at 50th and Main, where Michael used to go, and we all have a toast. So people that don�t do the walk and want to join us come, and it�s a nice way to end the walk and celebrate Michael.�

This quilt panel will be displayed at the Mosaic event on April 1 and at the AIDS Walk on April 30. To contribute to the family�s goal of $20,000, visit the AIDS Walk FirstGiving page for Connie Sherman:
Nancy Salmons
Nancy Salmons lives in Gravois Mills, Mo., but she has strong connections to Kansas City. She used to live here, and her son, Leo Walters, known to many in Kansas City for his LGBT community service, lives here now.

Salmons has created a quilt for the last five years for AIDS Walk.

�They�re more of a wall quilt than an actual full-sized quilt. They�re very diverse, the ones that I�ve made so far. It�s whatever idea that appeals to me at the time I decide to start putting it together,� she said.

Salmons said the quilt she did the first year was modeled after the 3 x 6 panels in the NAMES Project national AIDS Quilt.

�But every year since then I�ve made fairly smaller ones, just because they�re easier to handle.�

�One of the reasons I got into quilting,� she said, �is because it�s a community. It�s a nationwide effort; it�s a worldwide community. Every place I�ve ever gone where I�ve found another quilter, they�re friendly, they�re warm, they�re welcoming and anxious to share the craft.�

If anybody �ever did want to make a panel and didn�t have the ability to do it, there are quilt guilds and quilt circles just about everywhere you go. If they wanted to contact me, I could help them or could put them in touch with someone in their area. Quilters are just wonderful, warm, giving people. I think any quilt guild would be glad to assist. I think any quilt shop would be glad to lend their expertise in helping somebody do it.�

�You don�t have to have a lot of sewing skills to be able to do this,� she said.

Although Salmons said she has been at all the previous AIDS Walks, she will be out of town this year and unable to attend.

I asked Salmons whether her son Leo had anything to do with her getting involved with AIDS Walk. She replied: �Well, from the standpoint that Leo�s involved with it and he�s my son, and you know, AIDS is a concern. It�s something I wanted to do to participate in something that�s important to him.�

Salmons said that she�s seen the stigma of HIV/AIDS and is aware of how some have perceived it to be a gay disease even though it can affect anyone.

�I made that point when I showed at the quilt guild I belong to. We have a show-and-tell every week. I took the AIDS quilt in and showed it to the gals. And they would say, �Oh, this is for your gay son and his gay friends� and I said, �Well, no, there are people on here that were not gay. It does not affect just gays. It�s been targeted as that and that�s why it�s not been funded as well as it should have.��

She said that there was never a feeling of discomfort in her quilt guild about the subject matter, from what she could see.

�I�m not the only one there with a gay son. The other two gals also have gay children. One has a gay son and one has a lesbian daughter, and they�ve always been very open about it.�

�I do hope to get the guild involved in it next year,� she said. �In July they accept new projects, and I�m putting up an AIDS quilt for a new project this year.�

In addition to her son, Salmons has a 31-year-old daughter, Jennifer Miller, who lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I asked her whether her daughter had helped, and Salmons laughed. �No,� she said. �She has no craft-ability orientation.�

She said her husband, Jim, is very supportive of the project and all of her son�s friends. They both know their son�s friends well.

�He was quite scared by them when we first got together,� she said, �but he�s come to appreciate them quite a bit.�

She said that she and her husband have shared many laughs with Leo, his partner Joseph Pinter and their friends. �I was to one of the wig parties and to Joseph�s Fourth of July parties,� she said.

�I try to raise people�s awareness wherever I go,� she said, adding that she is �very proud that I can say my son is a wonderful person and he is gay and I have no problem with that.�

For her quilt, she said, �Every year I do a different pattern, and basically it�s whatever speaks to me in regards to remembering people from the past. One year it had hobbies because I read the poem �In Flanders Fields.� If you�re familiar with that at all, it�s about people that die on the battlefield but they want their comrades to remember them and by remembering their names they live on. And each year all of the names that are in the memorial project are put on the quilt in one form or another.�

This year, she said, �they were all machine-embroidered onto the quilt, and as I�m doing it, I�m saying the names and thinking about who they might have been. I didn�t know any of them, but I�ve been to the memorial programs [annually held at Unity on the Plaza> and listened to their parents talk and I&iuml

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