McCracken County resident Lela Blalock enjoys the thrill of taking material and seeing what can be made with it. You can create a wedding dress, pinwheels, clothing, flowers or a nice, warm quilt.
Blalock, a retired U.S. Postal Service carrier, has made lots of quilts in her life, but one of her recent endeavors holds a special meaning to her. It's a quilt with gold stars and squares, featuring red and blue trim, intended for her 95-year-old neighbor, Billy G. Childress, to recognize his Army service during World War II.
She's known Childress for many, many years and went to school with his children.
"There are so few World War II veterans left, and he's just your average guy," Blalock said. "He doesn't talk about the war. You wouldn't know by looking at him he ever went or anything, but people like that just deserve respect. They deserve something special, and I got interested in the Quilts of Valor Foundation several years ago."
Blalock, whose father served in WWII, made the quilt's top and took the material to be machine quilted. She had toyed with the idea of a quilt for Childress for "probably" two years before doing it.
"His name is Billy Gold Childress and I thought, well, it's got to have gold in it, and I couldn't get past the gold bars," she explained.
She ultimately realized it didn't have to be bars, but could be gold stars, and began looking for star patterns. The quilt took an estimated 40 hours of work.
"It kind of surprised me, but she's a good girl and she looks in on me quite often," Childress said of the gesture.
Childress attended Heath High School and was part of the 8th Armored Division during World War II. He served from 1943 to 1945 and "ended up all over Europe." In particular, he remembered how proud he was to see the Statue of Liberty when they came back to New York on a boat.
He also recalled the moments when he decided to volunteer for the Army.
"I feel really good that I did it," he said. "The reason I did is I was a farmer and I had a tractor, a new tractor ordered. I went up there one day and asked them about it. They said, 'You're not going to get that tractor. The war is taking everything.'"
After the war, Childress returned home and continued to farm. He retired from Union Carbide. He now uses a walker all the time and doesn't plan to attend Monday's Veterans Day celebration, but he appreciates the holiday.
"I'm glad I lived and survived it," he said, before noting: "You can take one of them steel helmets that we had and dig a foxhole real fast with it. You don't have to have a shovel."
As for Blalock, she hopes Childress knows he's appreciated and that nobody has forgotten his service. She plans to give him the quilt soon.