Highland News Leader

Know Your Neighbor in Highland: Rosemary Seifried

Highland veteran honored with Quilt of Valor

A Southern Illinois veteran was honored with a Quilt of Valor last week for his service in Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan.
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A Southern Illinois veteran was honored with a Quilt of Valor last week for his service in Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan.

Highland resident Rosemary Seifried stays as busy as a bee as the proprietor of her fabric and quilting shop by introducing and perpetuating interest in the almost-lost antiquated art of sewing and quilting.

She also organizes, hosts and attends quilting bee retreats with and for others.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the term quilting bee appears to have been introduced in the early 1800s The activity provided a special space for women to gather and gossip while they simultaneously expressed their artistic capabilities.

Often several quilts were finished in a single session which may have lasted all day. These episodes ended with a supper of roast chicken or turkey and the men folk arrived in time for the feast, which was followed by singing and dancing. Like so many established rural customs, the traditional quilting bee party carried with it all of the social amenities.

Rosemary was born Dec. 21, 1934, in a farmhouse in Lebanon to Nicolas and Clara Messinger Hohrein. She was the second eldest of two brothers and one sister. As a youngster growing up on a farm, Rosemary shared chores with her siblings and spent free time playing outdoor games.

Among her fondest memories is that of her father, who would sit on a swing in the front yard in the evenings and listen to the train whistle and predict whether or not it was going to rain by what he heard. She said his accuracy was uncanny. Rosemary, who grew up in a Christian atmosphere, said her parents taught their children to be honest and creative “by making do with what we had,” said Rosemary. “If we wanted something, we knew we had to work for it.”

When in the eighth grade, Rosemary was approached by local businessman Mr. Dammuller, who owned a soda fountain and offered her a part time job.

“Lots of college kids came there and we had a piano in the back room everyone gathered around while enjoying ice cream and candies,” recalled Rosemary.

While still in school, Rosemary regularly attended Highland’s Wednesday Night Dance. She said folks would come from neighboring towns and often their teacher would drive Rosemary and her friends to the event. On one occasion, she was introduced to a handsome young man, Don Seifried.

After a second meeting at an Edwardsville dance, Don was brought to Rosemary’s home the next day by a cousin. Rosemary and Don decided to go get a sandwich and were accompanied by two family members. On their way home in the rainy drizzly weather, they had an accident and the convertible in which they were riding overturned. There were no injuries but Rosemary quipped, “We always joked the wreck knocked us crazy.”

Rosemary graduated from Lebanon Community High School in 1953 and began working as a checker for Krogers. The couple dated for about 18 months before tying the knot Oct. 24, 1953, in Lebanon. They soon moved to Highland into what Rosemary references as the Broadway Playhouse. The tiny home was in the backyard of Pet Milk Technical Director Louis Latzer’s daughter’s home.

Once the Seifrieds were expecting their first child, they moved to a four-room apartment in Highland. Ultimately, they raised a family of two sons and two daughters. Rosemary was a stay-at-home mom until her children began attending school. She then worked part time for a variety of stores as a checker. Rosemary noted not once had she ever applied for a job.

“I was always approached by business owners to work for them,” said Rosemary, “and I’m kind of proud of that.”

She speaks of a situation during her marriage she said was her “biggest learning curve.” Don had a fused hip joint since childhood, but he never allowed it to slow him down. As he aged, it worsened. Finally the pain intensified to such an extent he had to seek help. He tracked down the same doctor from Shriners Hospital who had operated on him as a child.

The physician informed him what would be involved and Don was reluctant to go through with the surgery inasmuch he was looking at six months in recovery with no income. The doctor told him not to worry about the fees until Don was back on his feet. Don declined and insisted he would save up the money needed.

Eventually the funds were saved and the pain got so bad, Don had the surgery and was in a full body cast for six weeks. Rosemary worked two days a week to put food on the table.

”What did I learn from this? I learned that if you want or need something, you save up for it,” said Rosemary. “We don’t really need all the things we have today.”

Around 1981, Rosemary began volunteering for the Highland Historical Society and served on the committee. Seven years later she orchestrated a quilt show as a fundraiser for the organization. She later opened a quilt shop in a space in a downtown mall for about three years.

The home in which she currently lives and operates her business, Rosemary’s Fabric and Quilts, 812 Ninth St., Highland, went on the auction block; she and Don bought it and she recently celebrated her 30th year. In 2007, Don passed away, but she did not allow her grief to incapacitate her. In fact, she immersed herself in more volunteerism by helping others.

“Quilters are a cult of their own,” said Rosemary. “My best advertisement is by word of mouth.”

Her facility is featured in the nationally acclaimed “Travel Companion Crafter’s Guide,” which is published every three years.

“Quilting bees have now been replaced by quilting retreats,” said Rosemary. “Quilting takes patience and I enjoy helping others. I wouldn’t be here without God.”

Rosemary frequently provides transportation for other women desirous of attending a retreat where they can share their talents and companionship.

Rosemary’s quaint shop is a plethora of fabrics, threads, trims, books and quilts. Among her collection are two quilts she will donate to a museum of Lincoln Nebraska University Campus Quilt Studies, which she acquired years ago. One is circa 1800s and the the other one is rarity made by a free motion machine in about 1930.

On April 27, St. John’s United Church of Christ presented Rosemary with a beautifully hard-bound book replete with photographs of quilts she and her aunt Victoria had made which she donated to the church. The name of the book: “Featuring the Quilts of Rosemary Seifried.”

At the ripe young age of 84 does Rosemary plan on settling down and retiring?

“Not until they haul me out on a board,” she said.