A grandmother’s legacy to her grandson
“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.” Genesis 37:3
Many quilt patterns have Bible inspired names such as Rose of Sharon, Crown of Thorns, Jacob’s Ladder, Job’s Tears, David and Goliath and Palm Leaves. These biblical patterns are sewn in square block form and sewn together to create the quilt. One Bible pattern that isn’t in block form and is great for using up scraps is Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors. Now this pattern isn’t for everyone because it is made of two curved pieces, one convex and the other concave so they can fit together to form a unit. Sewing curves can be challenging but worth the effort.
My Grandmother Concordia (Foelber) Levihn (1900-1962) was an avid quilter. She made quilts to cherish and she made them as a member of Ladies Aid at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on St. Mary’s Ave., Fort Wayne, where her husband the Rev. Herbert E. Levihn was the pastor for many years up to the early 1950s. I was told that her quilt frame was in use until Saturday night when they would hoist it up because Sunday would often mean a seminarian would be joining the family for dinner.
My older brother Richard Levihn was her oldest grandson. As a child of all of the quilts his Grandma Levihn created, he was enthralled with her Joseph’s Coat quilt. I recently asked him why he was so drawn to it: Was it because of the story behind it that he learned in Sunday School or perhaps because it was so colorful. Richard couldn’t put his finger on it, but when I reflect on the story of Joseph and my brother, I feel in retrospect they share a common bond: They are both survivors and thrivers. Joseph endured being sold into slavery by his brothers, moved to Egypt, falsely accused and imprisonment, yet he used his gift of interpreting dreams to win the favor of the Pharaoh by saving the Egyptians from starvation. Richard was apparently born with brain damage. It wasn’t until after he started school that he was tested to find out why he was having trouble in school. When his Grandma Levihn found out he was going to repeat kindergarten, her remark to this six-year-old boy was, “You must be pretty stupid to have to repeat kindergarten!” The cruel remarks didn’t stop there. Often ridiculed “Ritchie Retard” and worse, it was a great relief for him to leave his parochial school behind to enter Ben F. Geyer as a 7th Grader. There he was “laned” into English and special developmental reading classes where his classmates also struggled with reading skills so many of us take for granted. There he forged friendships and thrived. Later at Wayne High School (WHS) he attended the Regional Vocational School at the former Central High School. His love of cars led him into the auto mechanics program where he excelled by working with his hands. At an internship at Sam’s Love Bug on Goshen Road, Richard remembers my WHS classmate Chuck Surack of Sweetwater fame would bring in his now famous Volkswagen van so Richard and the crew could repair it.
Richard left home at 19 and never looked back. He lives his life on his own terms despite those who wish to control him. His vending business kept him busy for many years, but he is slowly winding it down. A lifetime homeowner, he now purchases homes in his neighborhood to remodel and rent with the help of his friend, Sean. Richard thrives on helping the animals through H.O.P.E. for Animals and being helpful to his younger sister. His life’s journey inspires me. After our father’s death, my mother gave him the Joseph’s Coat quilt to treasure. When he looks at all of the different pieces that were cut, sewn and quilted, one can only marvel at the patience and workmanship of the grandmother who made it and I am so humbled at the tenacity of her grandson who now cherishes it.