Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Helen and Bill Kelley in Marion, Indiana, with two of their daughters - July 2008

The Quilters Hall of Fame likes to keep track of its Honorees and their families as the years roll by. However, sometimes the news is not so joyful. William R. Kelley, husband of TQHF 2008 Honoree Helen Longfield Kelley, passed away on February 14, 2015.  Honoree Helen Kelley preceded her husband in death quite unexpectedly shortly after she was inducted into the hall of fame in July 2008. Helen & Bill Kelley had made their home in Minnesota since 1962.

Bill Kelley will be remembered by his friends and family for his honorable, generous man committed to God, country, community, and his family. He was a graduate of Wayzata High School and Yale University and served as an Officer in the US Marine Corp. He was employed by General Electric for many years and later was a pioneer in computer consulting in Minneapolis. The Kelleys made North Como Presbyterian Church in Roseville their church home where they were very active. With his wife Helen, he was a longtime supporter of Minnesota Quilters and North Como Quilters. Bill enjoyed participating in the Northstar Storytelling Guild in Minnesota and had been active in Toastmasters. He enjoyed serving others and delivered Meals On Wheels until three weeks before his death. A memorial service was held to celebrate his life Friday, Feb. 27th at New Life Presbyterian Church in, Roseville, MN. 

Life as an Unexpected Quilt Teacher and Author

Helen Longfield Kelley was inspired to do needlework as a result of her mother’s fine craftsmanship and bought her first sewing machine, a Singer Featherweight, in 1946.  Kelley taught herself to quilt as an about-to-be bride. In 1972 she made a quilt for her daughter's wedding from quilt blocks garnered from friends around the world. The quilt ended up being featured in the Minneapolis Tribune and the news coverage opened unexpected opportunities for Kelley to teach quilting in the Minneapolis community. In 1978 Kelley was a founding member of the MinnesotaQuilt Guild and its organizing president, 1980-82. Eventually the quilt guild numbered over 1500 members. An international teaching career was born soon after 1978. Criss-crossing America, Europe and New Zealand, Kelley spread the "gospel of quilting" wherever she went with great enthusiasm and even humor. Her teaching talent led to seven books and to an invitation to become a columnist in Quilters Newsletter Magazine in 1983, the oldest continuously published magazine dedicated to quiltmaking and quilt history. Her book, Every Quilt Tells a Story, is a compilation of her column “Loose Threads” and was such a success that a second book, Joy of Quilting, followed. Georgia Bonesteel wrote in 2007. "Many readers kept her articles right on their bed stand, just like a good novel."

Among the many honors that Kelley received throughout her career in quilting and service to her community are: 1995 - Artist of Distinction, Fiber/Metal Arts of Minnesota; 1998 - Minnesota Quilter of the Year; in 1999 - Her quilt Renaissance was selected by a prestigious national committee of quiltmakers and quilt historians as one of the 100 best quilts of the 20th century, a project organized by the International Quilt Association; 2000 - Minnesota Textile Center’s Spun Gold Award. Kelley continued to lecture, teach, and exhibit her work until her unexpected death in August 2008. A 30-year retrospective of her work was on exhibit in Marion, Indiana, at The Quilters Hall of Fame during Celebration 2008.

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