by Larry Austin
Jesse Tromanhauser was recovering from a war injury when he was given a gift that he's been passing on to others ever since.
Tromanhauser was the featured quilter at the Quilts By The River quilt show, held at the Holiday Inn Grand Island by the River Lea Quilters Guild on Saturday and Sunday. Colleen Eddy and Susan Miles, co-chairs of the show, selected Tromanhauser as the event's featured quilter, calling his work "fiber art."
Miles said some of Tromanhauser's quilts "are super-intricate," like his whole-cloth quilts of one piece of fabric, done entirely by hand, which take hundreds of hours to complete.
"I've done 15 of those, and I've spent anywhere from 380 hours to 480 hours," he said of the whole-cloth quilts. "It all depends on the pattern of the quilt. Of all the quilts I do, those are the only ones I've sold."
His art was born following tragedy. After losing his leg in World War II, Tromanhauser learned the art of needlework, first with cross stitch, embroidery, and crocheting, in 1945 in England when he was in the hospital recovering.
Shortly thereafter he added quilting to his list.
"The gals there said that we've got to do this, to keep your mind off your wounds," he said. "You wouldn't think that the guys would be doing that, but that's what we did."
Along the way he learned patience and hard work.
"I kept telling myself when I was in the hospital in England, 'I'm going home, no matter what.'"
"Even when I was a kid, my mother always said to me, 'Junior, you try something, if you can't do it, you go on to the next thing.' And that's what I've always done."
He moved to Grand Island in 1957.
Over the weekend, patrons of the show could watch Tromanhauser work and view his past creations, none of which are for sale. He said he's not interested in money.
"I very seldom sell anything. I'll find people that really need it and are down and out and I'll give it to them," he said.
Tromanhauser often donates his work to local hospitals and nursing homes. Currently, he's in the process of working on 60 lap quilts. "Half of those are going up to the VA Hospital," he said.
"There's been so much given to me, I just want to give it back," he explained. "And it's too bad there's not more people like that."
Tromanhauser's feelings are echoed by other members of the River Lea Quilters Guild, who were giving a portion of proceeds from the show to benefit Mended Hearts of Buffalo and The Matthew Foster Foundation. The guild regularly makes cancer caps for Roswell Park Cancer Institute as well.
The guild meets on the third Tuesday of each month in the senior cafeteria of Grand Island High School.