Rural Missouri - November 2019 - 32

The

Power of

Love

How thousands of people
touched one woman's life
by Heather Berry | hberry@ruralmissouri.coop

S

he recalls the night the idea whipped through her mind
like a tornado. It was February 2016 and Jeanne HewellChambers was sitting on the sofa and stitching some
images drawn by her mentally disabled sister-in-law,
Nancy. Her daughter, Alison, happened to be watching a
World War II documentary at the time and Jeanne says "bits
and pieces" were catching her attention.
Then she heard words that snapped her to attention: Aktion T4.
"When I look back, it's more like the idea came up with me,"
Jeanne says with her North Carolina southern drawl. "I knew
what I'd heard was going to become a huge part of the rest of my
life at that point."
Aktion T4 was Adolf Hitler's pre-Holocaust plan quietly put Above: Jeanne Hewell-Chambers founded The 70273 Project to remember those who
into action between September 1939 and August 1941 which were killed in Adolf Hitler's pre-Holocaust plan to murder the physically and mentally ill.
allowed Nazis to kill physically and mentally ill people of all ages Below: Students view the quilts at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.The
who they considered unfit for society. This Holocaust forerunner project will be on display until Dec. 15 at the McClure Archives on the college campus.
was Hitler's way of paving a road for his plans to murder millions of
Once word got out, Jeanne says the goal of receiving 70,273 quilt blocks
other people he deemed inferior.
"As I sat there listening to them speak of Hitler's scheme, I knew I had was reached by late 2018. Since there were many more killed during the
to become a voice for the 70,273 documented voices of those who Aktion T4 project than were recorded, Jeanne says the project will continue infinitely, with she and the quilts traveling the world to share stories
were callously murdered," Jeanne recalls.
Jeanne's birthday happened to be that week and the gift she gave behind those without a voice. According to Jeanne, blocks and quilts have
herself was to start on a massive quilt block project and invite the been sent from every state and nearly 150 countries.
world to help. White pieces of fabric would be marked
"This project shows me that we are the ones who are disabled and
with only two red X's. The red marks could be paintlimited by our thinking," adds Jeanne, noting many blocks have been
made by blind or otherwise disabled people, including Nancy.
ed, stitched or glued onto the cloth.
Jeanne says the white fabric represents
While The 70273 Project won't end, it will evolve into a book
sometime, sharing the photos and stories behind the blocks.
the people the Nazi doctors hadn't even evalThere are also plans for a curriculum which can be used at the
uated in person. Each form required two of Warrensburg
seventh- and eighth-grade levels in schools.
three doctors to deem the person an "economic
"While sharing the quilts is important, getting the word out
burden on society" before the disabled person's
about why this happened is even more important," Jeanne
fate was sealed. Two red X's on the white form was
says. "I can't unring a bell, but together, we can remember
all it took to wipe someone from the world.
the lives lost and learn to love one stitch at a time."
"I knew I couldn't make 70,273 blocks by
myself to commemorate the lives lost," Jeanne says,
Part of The 70273 Project will be on display at the McClure Archives and
noting the response to her blogs and website have
been overwhelming. "I never dreamed there was so University Museum at UCM in Warrensburg through Dec. 15. For hours and
much compassion in the world, but it's come to surface directions, go to www.ucmo.edu/offices/archives or call 660-543-4877. For
instructions on submitting a quilt block, go to www.The70273 Project.org or
through The 70273 Project."
Another reason this project is so near and dear to Jeanne's email Jeanne@The70273Project.org.
heart is due to her sister-in-law. "I realized Nancy wouldn't be
here if it had been up to Hitler. And I can't imagine the world
without her," Jeanne says of her 60-year-old sister-in-law.
The quilter says her husband, Andy, supports her endeavor, but often reminds her she can't do it alone. "I have people
who number and document every block that comes in, along
with the stories behind them. And I read every one. There are
others who just sew blocks together for the project, too."
Sometimes, groups or quilting clubs send their quilts completed, which helps Jeanne's mission greatly. "We have lap
quilts, wall hangings, huge quilts and even postcard-size
quilts. Once completed, they are displayed around the world
at museums, libraries, colleges and quilt shows," she adds.
No matter how large or how small the final quilted piece
is, it's the two red X's which scream in the silence as crowds
view the results of The 70273 Project.

32

RURAL MISSOURI | NOVEMBER 2019


http://www.ucmo.edu/offi http://www.The70273Project.org

Rural Missouri - November 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - November 2019

Contents
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Contents
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - 4
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - 5
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - 6
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - 7
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Rural Missouri - November 2019 - 32
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - 33
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Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - November 2019 - Cover4
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