No doubt about it, Veterans Monument Park in Rio Rancho will be a colorful place on Sunday.

That’s where the Thimbleweeds Quilting Club will be hanging out and hanging more than 200 handmade quilts. Many will be for sale; others are for show and tell.

There’s no charge for parking or admission to the show, which runs from10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be vendors on hand, a food truck or two and a quilt will be raffled off.

No, as some may think, the hobby of quilting isn’t just for senior citizens – or just for women.

“Actually, our membership has stayed steady for 30 years,” said longtime Thimbleweed member and Colinas del Norte Elementary art teacher Donna Barnitz. “Ladies retire (and some men, too) and really get involved in quilting as a hobby. Many of our most active members are recently retired and now have the free time to devote to hobbies. Plus, there are many young quilters who are taking it up, encouraged by Instagram, YouTube, etc. I would also say we have held steady in the number of quilt shops in our area. Some go out of business, but others spring up to take their place.”

One Thimbleweed member happy to tell about her hobby is Ann Driscoll, 93 years young and a charter member of the Rio Rancho club, which meets twice monthly at Sabana Grade Rec Center. She’s especially enamored with the group’s show-and-tell sessions.

“I’ve never sold a quilt,” Ann said, estimating she’s made more than 250 since she began. “I just give ’em away.”

She and her late husband retired to Albuquerque three years ago; she’s been living at Fairwinds since last July and loves the new friends she’s met in that 10-month stint. Before the move to Albuquerque, the couple had lived in Farmington for a few years and owned a townhome in Angel Fire – a long way from where she grew up in Natick, Massachusetts.

Her grandmother was a quilter, and although Ann initially took up sewing, she later became a quilter.

“I started (sewing) when my kids were little, out of necessity,” she said, having four daughters and two sons.
She recalled cutting out a quilt pattern before moving to Indonesia in 1973 – the couple were displaced often due to her engineer husband’s transfers – and “took lessons when I returned” in 1975.

While living in the Philippines from 1976-81, she was giving lessons in quilting.

Upon entering her home at Fairwinds, nobody would doubt a quilter resides there – there are colorful quilts everywhere, and she said she has a dozen or so folded and put away in a closet.

“I’m not a modern quilter,” she said. “I follow old-fashioned patterns.” She also admitted to taking photos of quilts she admired and making patterns of her own from them.

A source of pride

Although Ann said her hometown was known for former pro football quarterback Doug Flutie, she was probably being modest.

Back on June 6, 1944, remembered in history as D-Day, the first naval officer on the shore of Utah Beach was another fellow from Natick.

James Earl Arnold, born in 1895, lived in Natick from 1931-47, working as a salesman and engineer in nearby Boston, even serving a term as a state representative.

A veteran of World War I, he was called back to active service in 1940, and after a few years overseeing U.S. Navy shipbuilding, shipped to Europe for the preparation of Operation Neptune, code name for the June 4 Battle of Normandy.

Capt. Arnold was designated Naval Officer in Charge for port operations on Utah Beach, coordinating the orderly movement of ships and crafts to land thousands of men and tons of equipment on the beach, in conjunction with the U.S. Army.

After the war, he returned to his family, earning the rank of rear admiral; he died in 1971 at the age of 76 and was buried with his wife, Margaret, in Arlington National Cemetery.
James Earl Arnold was Ann’s father.