Eva Holen worked methodically over a sea of red hearts yesterday, turning squares of material into a quilt that will warm a woman Holen has never met. Holen, a sewing instructor...

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Eva Holen worked methodically over a sea of red hearts yesterday, turning squares of material into a quilt that will warm a woman Holen has never met.

Holen, a sewing instructor at Lake Washington Technical College in Kirkland, was not alone. All day yesterday, more than two dozen of Holen’s friends and students volunteered at the college’s sewing lab, putting together four quilts for a family in Nebraska that lost a loved one in Iraq.

Holen, of Kirkland, decided to rally the college and the community to help with the quilts — a project she calls “Hearts of Love” — after she heard about a 23-year-old widow, April Kielion, who learned of the death of her 23-year-old husband, Marine Cpl. Shane Kielion, while in a hospital maternity ward.

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Their son, Shane Kielion Jr., was born Nov. 15, the same day his father was killed in Fallujah, Iraq.

Holen learned about the family from her son-in-law, Tye Kerby, who serves in Kielion’s Marine unit, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif. Holen’s daughter, Amy Kerby, has become a close friend of April Kielion.

“Just thinking about this as a mom, never having your husband hold your baby or hear he was a dad, I think that’s why you see all the moms here working on this project,” Holen said.

The women worked to lay out and stitch together white square swatches, some of which were sent from people in Alaska, Texas and Minnesota and as far away as England and Sweden.

Holen had sent e-mails to friends and fellow quilters, explaining her project and asking for six-inch squares with red hearts of any pattern. Word quickly spread, and soon the squares began to pour in, she said.

Some swatches had crooked red hearts cut out by children. Others had multicolored hearts beautifully embroidered and stitched. Some were hand drawn, and said simply: “I love you.”

“I wish we could make one for everyone who died in the war,” said Paula Lucas, of Carnation, who brought several squares with hearts she sewed by hand. “This is something positive we can do besides watching the news and being depressed about the war.”

When they were done, more than 600 squares were sewn together to create the bright quilts destined for Omaha and the Kielion family.

The group yesterday sewed a queen-sized quilt for April Kielion. They also completed three lap-sized quilts for other family members.

“Even though I don’t know them personally, I see how this has affected Eva and her daughter,” said Beckie Daniels of Kirkland. “When I heard the story, it just brought tears to my eyes. How could it not?”

The quilts will be a surprise for the family, Holen said. She hopes to either mail them to April Kielion, or have Amy Kerby give them to her personally before Valentine’s Day.

“This is just a little something we can do to show we appreciate the sacrifice her husband made,” Amy Kerby said.

“And it’s important for April, in raising her son, to show her son that his dad was a hero.”

Rachael Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com