Quilts of Valor

Mother-daughter honored for military service

News Photo by Diane Speer A Quilt of Valor is draped across the laps of mother and daughter Dorothy Malinowski, right, and Margaret Malinowski, both of Alpena. The quilts were created by guild member Diane LaBell, standing at left. Fellow guild member Shirley Kowalski collects the quilts as they are made for the national program that honors military veterans. Margaret received her Quilt of Valor in October, while Dorothy was given hers at a guild meeting held earlier this week.

ALPENA –The passage of time hasn’t dulled the wartime memories of 93-year-old Dorothy Malinowski and her 69-year-old daughter, Margaret Malinowski. Both Alpena residents served their country with honor during two different conflicts: World War II for Dorothy and the Vietnam War for Margaret.

“On Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, I was still in high school,” Dorothy said. “That was the beginning of my being a patriot.”

After graduation, she went to work at a U.S. Defense Plant that made shell casings for bullets where she remembers running a punch press, draw press and screw machine. In 1944, she married her husband, Roman, a serviceman who soon shipped out to Normandy in advance of the Battle of the Bulge.

Following his departure, Dorothy joined the U.S. Army and did her basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, before being transferred to the motor pool at Camp Atterbury, Ind.

“My husband was so mad at me he didn’t write to me for three months,” Dorothy said of her unconventional decision to join the army.

As part of the motor pool, she drove a 2 1/2-ton truck, which proved to be too much of a challenge.

“All the gears had to be double-clutched,” she said. “To back up that truck was impossible for me so I was transferred to McCloskey General Hospital in Texas as a medic.”

Margaret just as easily recalls her wartime experiences. She joined in 1966 because so many young men were being sent to Vietnam.

“I volunteered because of these young men,” Margaret said, tearing up. “I just wanted to go in and help.”

Mother and daughter are forever linked by their military service as medics and what they saw in the course of doing their jobs.

“It was so hard seeing the guys come back from Vietnam with no arms or no legs,” Margaret said. “I’m glad I was there for them.”

Dorothy was no stranger either to the ravages of war.

“I looked after paratroopers, some who were dropped on land mines and lost a leg or both legs, an arm or both arms,” Dorothy said. “It was terrible. Their young wives would come in and tell them they were getting a divorce. Sometimes all they had left was a smile.”

Margaret was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, also in Texas, but she did time as well in Germany. It’s always been meaningful to her that she served just a short distance from the location in Germany where her father was stationed. He came to visit her during her stint in that country.

“My father was a true patriot,” Margaret said. “He was 90 years old when he died.”

Dorothy and Margaret’s service to their country hasn’t been lost on the local Gone to Piece Quilt Guild, whose members use their sewing skills to create patriotic quilts for the national Quilts of Valor program. The guild honored Dorothy with the presentation of a Quilt of Valor bearing the image of a bald eagle during their regular monthly meeting held this week.

“That’s the nicest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s so pretty,” Dorothy said upon accepting the gift.

The guild similarly honored Margaret at an October meeting, when it presented her with a red, white and blue Quilt of Valor that features an American flag at the center.

Both of the quilts were made by guild member Diane LaBell, but she isn’t the only one to participate in the program. Guild President Jean Neiman estimates the 110-member guild has stitched 25 such quilts for other veterans.

Making Quilts of Valor is just one of the many service projects the creative group tackles. They currently are putting together 200 quilted placements to be given to seniors served by the Alpena Senior Citizens Center’s Meals on Wheels program and dozens of pillowcases to be given to area residents receiving Christmas gifts and food through the Salvation Army.

Guild members enjoyed hearing a bit about Margaret and Dorothy’s service, especially since it came at a time in U.S. history when women in the military weren’t as accepted as today. When Margaret attended her 50-year Alpena High School class reunion last year, she remembers being the only female veteran in the crowd.

LaBell, a fellow classmate from that AHS Class of 1966, was determined to honor first Margaret, and then her mother Dorothy, with a Quilt of Valor.

“Sewing together these scraps of red, white and blue fabric seems to be the very least one can do to honor the sacrifice and commitment these veterans have made for us and our country,” LaBell said.

For her part, Dorothy jokes about how her time in the Army came to an end.

“When Roman came back to the States in 1945, he came to my commander’s desk, placed his discharge papers down and said he wanted his wife back,” she said.

The U.S. Army complied. Ultimately, Dorothy returned to Alpena, where she raised four daughters, earned a college degree and worked as an elementary school teacher for many years at Ella White School.

Mother and daughter remain proud of what they did for their country, and Gone to Pieces Quilt Guild remains committed to honoring such service.

Diane Speer can be reached via email at dspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5691. Follow Diane on Twitter ds_alpenanews.