The once bright reds are faded to pink, the brilliant white dulled to a soft ivory and the gorgeous blue softened with time, but the love, patriotism and sadness of rural Oklahoma families separated from their loved ones by war is unchanged, growing only more poignant with the passage of time.

These scraps of quilted fabrics emblazoned with the embroidered names of local “soldier boys” gone to war are well used, mutely testifying to decades of practical use and countless cold nights.

These two quilts, faded with time and hand-stitched with love are testaments to a small community intent on honoring the brave young men sent to fight a war that happened in places on the far side of the world from Bebee, Okla.

Each frayed edge and worn spot is a testimony of the passage of time. More than 60 years have passed since needle was put to cloth and these quilts were made.

When he was a small child growing up during those war years in the small community of Bebee, located several miles southwest of Ada in Pontotoc County, Gene Hood remembers watching his mother, Omega Hood, and other members of the Bebee Home Demonstration Club work on the quilts honoring the “boys from Bebee” who had gone into service during the war. Soon to be 73 years old, he recognized the quilts and purchased them recently at a local estate auction. He alone among those present knew the story that these quilts had to tell to those who wished to listen.

Among the names immortalized in red thread are J.B. Hood, his oldest brother who passed away in 1965, and his uncle, Preston Hood. Both men served during the war and were among the lucky ones to return to their families when the battles were won.

Like the entire country, the little community of Bebee was moved to do its part in the war effort by giving what it could. During World War II, the Bebee Home Demonstration Club helped sell war bonds by hosting pie and box suppers where meals, pies, cakes and other donated items were auctioned to the highest bidder. Those in attendance would bid on donated items in the form of the cash value of the amount of war bonds they were willing to buy.

BHDC members made several quilts that were auctioned off.

The two quilts were made at separate times and the oldest is difficult to date, but was estimated to have been quilted around 1943. The quilts list names of local men who were in the service at the time.

The later quilt definitely dates to after the spring of 1945. This date was ascertained by research into the name of one of the soldiers who was listed on the earlier quilt and was memorialized in the later quilt with a golden star indicating he had died in service in the interval between when the quilts were made.

Further research found that the soldier, James Cape, was killed fairly early in the spring of 1945 and was — like many soldiers killed during the furious last months of the war — was buried in France, his remains never to return to his family in the Bebee community. His burial site is in the U.S. cemetery in Lorraine, France. His name is the only one on these quilts to have a gold star honoring his sacrifice for his country.

All names on the quilts (many are duplicated on both items) were from the Bebee community. It is unknown if any others listed on the quilts also gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Local oilman, James A. “Lit” Burke, who owned the discovery well for the prosperous Bebee Oilfield, was the high bidder for both quilts when they were auctioned. He was well known as being an individual who was always willing to help when the community needed to meet their quota of bond sales.

One of the quilts sold for a high bid of $10,000 in bonds, which helped BHDC raise more money in bond sales than any other small community of similar size in the area.

It is likely that the brave soldiers never saw these quilts — they were made when they were away in far foreign lands and long sold before their return. But it is almost certain that in one of the many letters they were told of the quilts in letters from home.

The colors are faded, the names unknown to many of the newer generations and the very community of Bebee only a name on some old maps, but the quilts are still here — a tangible bit of American patriotism and family history that has survived the passage of time.

In this time of war, the names are different, but the tears, love and fierce patriotism of families waiting here at home for a loved soldier’s return is unchanged — as real now as it was more than 60 years ago when a group of local women with few marketable skills did what they could to help finance resources needed to win a war and bring their soldiers home.

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