Orab quilt of Class of 1969

Shirley Vanden Brink made this quilt for the 50th Sheldon High School reunion of the Class of 1969. The quilt has the senior head shots of all 120 graduates in the center. 

SHELDON—When 1969 Sheldon High School graduate Shirley (Platt) Vanden Brink learned her class would hold its 50th reunion, she decided to put her quilting skills to use for the occasion.

“I got to thinking, ‘Well, since I make T-shirt quilts for people all the time, why don’t I make one for our class reunion?’” said Vanden Brink, who lives in Leavenworth, KS, with her husband and high school classmate, Larry.

The class reunion will be held Saturday evening, Aug. 3, at the Sheldon Eagles Club. An open bar will begin at 5 p.m., with dinner being served at 6. The dance will go 7-11 p.m. and will feature music from the 1960s and ’70s.

During the event, Vanden Brink’s quilt will be raffled off to one lucky classmate.

“I don’t know if I’ll cry when, whoever wins it, that I can give it to them,” she said. “I mean, it’s just pretty special.”

Class member Randy Merrill, who helped organize the reunion with classmate Boni (Campbell) McDowell, said the money raised from the quilt raffle will go toward covering the expenses of the reunion.

The quilt measures 66 inches by 79 inches. Vanden Brink made it from the fabric of 19 Sheldon High School T-shirts.

After Vanden Brink learned the reunion was being planned, she asked McDowell to e-mail people requesting T-shirts she could use to create the quilt. Vanden Brink also used orange and black fabric she had on hand.

“Then I got a real harebrained idea of taking all the pictures of each individual graduate out of the yearbook and transferred onto T-shirt fabric,” Vanden Brink said.

To do so, she took the fabric to a T-shirt shop in Atchison, KS, which was able to digitally reconfigure and transfer the yearbook photos of the Sheldon High School Class of 1969 onto the fabric. After that, she returned home to begin designing and putting together the quilt.

Vanden Brink said it took about 10 hours to piece everything together and another two hours to quilt together using her 14-foot-long, hand-guided quilting machine. Finally, she spent about five hours binding the quilt, which she did by hand.

“It makes my hair stand on end because it turned out fantastic,” she said.

Vanden Brink finished the quilt in March but still has one more important step to complete after the class reunion is over.

On either side of the front of the quilt, there are blank spaces for her classmates to sign their names, with the words “Class of ’69 50th Reunion: We were there” stitched at the top of each side. After everyone’s name is signed, she will use an iron to heat set the signatures to prevent them from being washed off.

Vanden Brink hopes whoever wins the quilt will treasure it, since it will be a one-on-of-a-kind heirloom for them.

Aside from raffling off her quilt, Vanden Brink said she is looking forward to reconnecting with her high school classmates.

“My husband and I personally have not been to a class reunion for quite some time, so it’s always fun to get together and reminisce,” she said.

Merrill said about 75 people are expected to attend the celebration, 45-50 of whom are graduates from 1969. The class consisted of 120 people.

He said people attending the celebration are looking forward to catching up with each other and learning what has happened in their lives.

“It’s just really neat to revisit,” he said. “You can’t live in the past, but you can burn a match. You can light it up for a day or an evening.”

There will be plenty of laughter, too, Merrill said, saying that some of the people who attend will not be able to recognize all of their classmates.

The same thought had crossed Vanden Brink’s mind.

“It can put you on the spot when you see someone, and you cannot come up with their name, so you finally have to ask,” she said.