Barn quilt piece pays tribute to cancer survivors, victims

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By Nick Schrager

Barbara Hale Wheatley is very aware of breast cancer. As a two-time survivor, she knows all too well what anyone facing the disease will go through, and she is pleased to help bring attention to it year round, and especially in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


Wheatley, who lives on Bloomfield Road, is a member of the Washington County Cancer Coalition. She was a charter member of the group when it formed 10 years ago, and continues to be active today. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer Jan. 26, 1994 following a routine examination, which included a mammogram.

The second diagnosis came during a self-examination on April 12 of last year, which was also her birthday.

“I don’t ever want a birthday present like that again,” Wheatley said.

She visited two doctors in March of last year and had a mammogram, but nothing was found. Just a month later, she found a lump under her arm, and it was determined to be breast cancer.

With two bouts against breast cancer, Wheatley was glad to offer her barn when it came time to hang a quilt pattern designed as part of the local tourism effort to decorate and preserve local barns. The cancer coalition had the unique opportunity to not only select a pattern for its quilt piece, but also to do the painting on the piece. Normally, members of the Washington County Homemakers do the painting, but in this case, it seemed appropriate that the coalition members be involved.

“This is a special treat on this one. The coalition paid for the quilt, and the barn quilt committee did the priming of the panel and bought the materials,” said Kay Kennedy, an ex officio member of the barn quilt committee who serves as an advisor from the Washington County Extension Office. “The coalition members did their own painting, and they were the first group to do that.”

Debra Galloway is community health educator at the Washington County Health Department. She is also the designer behind the cancer coalition’s barn quilt.

“I created three designs, and the coalition chose the one they liked,” Galloway explained. “Everybody on the coalition has been so involved. They have battled cancer or had it in their family, and it’s just fitting that they get to work on it, too. They put a lot of sweat and caring into this project.”

Galloway pointed out that members painted the quilt piece, and also signed it. In fact, as the work was done, and even shortly before the piece was placed on Wheatley’s barn, anyone who wanted to sign the quilt or add the name of someone who was battling cancer or had lost the battle could be written on the border of the piece.

Galloway’s name also appears on the quilt piece – not as a designer, but as someone who has been diagnosed with melanoma. She said the diagnosis was treated quickly, and she is cancer free, but still wanted to sign in support of those who have battled and continue to battle cancer.

Wheatley said she is pleased to be able to display the quilt piece on her barn, but she also wanted to stress to anyone who has not been checked to see a physician.

“People need to be sure to get a mammogram,” Wheatley said.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the cancer coalition should contact the Washington County Health Department at (859) 336-3989.

Following the hanging of the cancer coalition’s quilt piece, the barn committee, along with representatives from Salt River Electric, moved on to the farms of Julie McCray Waits on Booker Road and Sam Stumph in Mackville. Salt River Electric donates equipment and workers to hang the quilt pieces locally.

“After today, we will have hung nine quilts,” Kennedy said. “This hopefully will preserve the barns, but will also be a tourism effort. I have a person I’ve heard about in Florida coming here in the first week of November to tour all of our barn quilts, and they are also going to tour Marion County.”

For more information on placing a quilt piece on your barn, contact Kennedy at the Washington County Extension Office at (859) 336-7741.