By Benjamin Joe
In war, many will leave the places they lived in and fight in lands far off. That was the destiny of 152 men and women who left Belden Center to serve in World War II, 13 of whom never returned to their loved ones at home.
They were not, however, forgotten.
Toward the end of the war, 14 women in the Unity Club came together to embroider a quilt, also known as a “service cloth,” in which all 152 names were spelled out on a piece of fabric, 10 feet long and 5 feet wide. The names in red were for those who served in the Army and the blue ones for those in the Navy. Today, the quilters and the quilted have all passed away, but they left the cloth behind them.
To the purpose of preserving the “service cloth,” there will be a Town of Niagara Veterans appreciation dinner at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at the Niagara Active Hose Co. on Lockport Road.
“I’ve been in contact with the New York State Museum, the curator there,” said Pete Ames, historian of the Town of Niagara. “She’s been giving me tips on what I want to use for materials. How to get it framed and displayed and protected. That really peaked her interest. She hadn’t heard of a service cloth before.”
“You see plaques, wooden framed lists of people or individuals that they have, but I’ve never seen anything like that,” Ames said and points to a picture of the cloth. “With that many people on it in a textile. I think it’s sort of unusual.”
Ames said he got involved this past summer after Rich Vanorman, whose mother worked on the cloth and whose uncle, Melvin Aube, has his name embroidered on it, travelled from Las Vegas to the area and asked to look at the cloth, which was being stored at the town’s Historical Society.
“They pulled it out and showed it to him, and he said, ‘This should be framed, so, everybody can appreciate it!’ ” Ames said.
Currently, Ames is looking for donations to frame this record of men and women who lived in times more uncertain that today. He said the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area will be the primary sponsor, but more would be needed to get the job done.
“We have local workshop teacher, Arthur Garabedian, on Portage Road in Niagara Falls, he used to teach woodshop. He’s agreed to do this inexpensively; he’s just charging us the wood portion, the frame, and the cost of the materials. He’s giving us his time to put the framework together. Then I’ve got to get a piece of UV-protected acrylic to put on the front of it. Just that piece of plastic alone is $400. Then I’ve got to get a bunch of archival materials: acid-free foam board and muslin. We want to preserve it, and protect it properly and I think we’ll be able to with the help of Niagara Falls National Heritage Area and other donors. I think we’ll be able to pay for the project,” he said.
“We found one wall it could fit on,” Ames said, referring to the Town of Niagara Community Center. “So, I got permission from the supervisor of the town to take that wall up. It’s 10 foot by 5 foot, so it’s huge. But it will be a great thing.”
Tickets to the dinner are $10 and the cloth will be displayed along with a grid list of whose name is where. Contact Nancy Tierney at 716-531-8882 for more information. Proceeds will benefit framing the service cloth and putting it on display in The Town of Niagara Community Center in Veterans Park on May 23, 2020.