October 17, 2007

Think of me....
When dark clouds hang in curtains
of design along the far horizon.
When dove gray shadows dance
and weave in harmony with a
shy and fleeting sun.

When crimson red to purple hues of dawn
caress the mountain pines.
When magic light adds shadow deep along
the valleys, the plains and timberline.

When whispy ribbon streaks of white
hang in azure noontime skies to create a magic springboard for the diving
gliding hawk up high beyond the rise.

When the distant rolling hills of home
call the sun god back to rest.
When the soaring peaks beyond
wear crystal shafts of light
upon their rugged breast.

When viewing God's canvas of the night...
Feel the soft caressing breeze
upon your cheek and smile when you hear the calling of the crow.
"Please think of me.
think of me,
of me."

Ruth Stoneley died May 14, 2007, after a courageous fight against breast cancer.
I keep putting off this tribute because I do not want to accept that my dear Ruthie is gone..... .that she won't be there on my next trip to Australia. I keep speaking of her in the present tense and have to constantly correct myself.

I always looked forward to our time together because we enjoyed that special bond that allows you to accept each other no matter what (or as Ruthie would say...."We love each other, warts and all!"

It was the type of friendship that seemed endless, like you can't remember when you first met, it just seemed like you had known each other forever.

It was the kind of friendship that allowed you to spill your guts and the other never judged....just listened and listened and listened.

It was the kind of friendship that made you make a phone call to see if the other was alright and usually they were in some kind of trouble and that phone call made it feel better.

It was the kind of friendship that made you know if things really got to a certain point you could pick up the phone and she would do anything to make it matter what.

It was the kind of friendship that... if a year passed or just picked up where you left off, as if it was just yesterday you had been together.

It was the kind of relationship that made you throw your hands in the air and scream..."That woman drives me mental! What makes her do that? And then you would calm down and realize she had the same problems with you!

It was the kind of friendship that made you rejoice in her children's accomplishments and actually enjoy the endless grandchildren stories.

Ruth was a handsome tall woman. Her striking features were framed by a mane of long gray, blond hair. She walked in a tall, graceful way that made people stop to admire. She dressed in a artful way that portrayed her passion for fibers. She had a habit of running her fingers through her hair when in deep discussion.
She had eyes that lit up with laughter.

She was passionate about her art and loved the Brisbane art scene. Through her determination and hard work she brought attention to quilting as an art form. She went on to win the Churchill Fellowship and was able to travel to the U.S. where she established many contacts in the quilting world including Virginia Avery who became a mentor and lifelong friend.
Her fashion sence was recognized in the U.S. by being part of the Fairfield Fashion Shows. In Australia she was recognized as a fibre artist, teacher and lecturer.

To some she appeared reserved and some what aloof. To her friends and family she was Ruthie who loved a good laugh, long evenings over great food, wine and long conversations.

We met many years ago when I went up to Brisbane to teach in her wonderful shop Patchwork Supplies on Cloucester Street in High Gate Hill. The classes were held at the Lithuanian Hall a short way from her shop..... She had a wonderful supportive staff of women. She always booked me for at least four days and more. I immediately fell in love with the High Gate Hill area......a community of alternative lifestyle types; funky, vintage Queensland houses, rolling hills, chickens, dogs and lots of trees........I loved it through and through.


When I found out that some of the trees were mango trees....I was hooked for life....It became a tradition for me to show up during the mango season with a backpack and a suitcase....the suitcase full of teaching supplies and the backpack to hold mangoes! Ruthie would make breakfast while I went out for my walk on which I picked mangoes....some with magpie peck holes or possum bite marks.....(this horrified Ruthie) I would stagger home with a bulging backpack...The morning harvest would be poured into the sink....Ruthie trying to throw out the "unqualified" mangoes, me with both elbows in the juice up to my string in my teeth..... Ruthie ranting on about allergies to mangoes; foot and mouth desease.....lots of laughter and banter.......I miss my friend....terribly.


Over the years we shared a lot of ups and downs...As single mothers we shared a bond. In the early days we took turns being in "constant crisis"! But always there was our quirky sence of humor to get us through. Laughter gets you through a lot.....


Ruthie was a marvelous designer in quilting, home decor, fashion and fabric design. She was at her happiest when creating.

She filled a big gap for quilters and home sewers by designing beautiful Australian florals that could be used in both quilting, fashion and home decor.
The colours and designs were highly original and totally "Ruthie".

I can remember pouring over drawings and fabric swatches with Ruthie.
I was in complete amazement and admiration for her design sence. It was wonderful to see her so engrossed in her work and so happy.
I still have many of her fabrics and treasure them.

The photo on the left side is of a crazy quilt collage I did to commemorate Ruthie's first fabric line. The bride is her mother and the little girl with the long braids, in the lower left, is Ruthie.


I will always remember my friend for one of her most endearing "vices"..... her love for champaigne and good wine.

In the early days we always shared a bottle of bubbly or wine but then....horror of horrors...I developed a severe allegy to both. After several attempts to overcome my allergy and two trips to the emergency ward....I gave it up.
So from then on I would buy my favorite Australian Chardonay to "share" with my friend. I would sniff the cork and she would drink the wine.

Of course this always went with our favorite meal of "tasty little bits" like good cheeses, sausages, salomies, french bread, seafood, olives, salads, and good fruit (like mangoes) etc. We shared a love for "tasty bits" meals. To meld this all together there was the gossip, the confessions, tales of the latest boyfriend, the confidences, political discussions, the laughter and tears......

I looked forward to our time together every was like a year's worth of therapy in a week!!!!


I met Ernest in 1994 (at a dance in La Veta)...I called Ruthie to tell her all about him. As months passed we decided to get married quietly in Australia in order to share it with our Aussie friends. We decided to get married later in Canada, Colorado, and California in order to share it with all our friends and family.

Time was short and Ruthie came to the rescue by finding a Celebrant who would marry us in the William Ricketts Sanctuary. When he told her that he would marry us naked and dancing on a table if we wanted....she knew he was the one for us. (John Hose became a lifetime friend)

Ruthie and Ernest met a few weeks before we married and hit it off instantly. At this time Ruthie was living under the shop with a beautiful enclosed garden.
Ernest had gone off to look around the area. Ruthie was in the shop and I was at a class..... Ernest came back in the afternoon and had forgotten his key and did not know how to open the gate, so he tried to climb over the fence. When that failed he went around to the shop.

A nosy neighbour saw this and called on the telephone. She proceeded to tell Ruthie that a very large black man was skulking around her backyard and to be very careful....Ruthie replied "Oh yes! That's my friend Ernest. He is very large. He is very black and he is very, very nice." With that she hung up, leaving the neighbour speechless.
She dined out on the story for years to come ......
We flew to Melbourne to meet up with Di Pettigrew, Gloria McKinnon and Ruthie who had all agreed to be wintnesses for our wedding. The night before we went out to a night club and Ernest danced with us all. What fun.

We were not deterred by the fact that the William Ricketts Sanctuary was now in the hands of the National Heritage and they were not set up for weddings. John Hose had a plan.

It was a marvelous day.....full of laughter and adventure. We smuggled our bouquets in a backpack, paid our entrance fee, and hiked in till we found a perfect place for the ceremony. John pulled his celebrant's shawl from out of his jacket pocket.. Ruthie, Gloria and Di whipped out their flowers and read the appropriate passages...We were joined by several passing people and it was wonderful!!!

After posing for numerous photos we then trooped over to the Tea Room and had a proper Devonshire tea. We signed all the papers and took more photos.
That evening we went out to a terrific seafood restaurant for more laughter and memories. The next morning we flew off to Tasmania for our honeymoon.

The photos above are of Ernest with Ruthie and me at a restaurant in Brisbane. We had a great time together.....
The Wall hanging is the gift Ruthie gave us for our wedding present. It is a beautiful piece of needlework techniques, quilting, ruched ribbons and fabrics plus wedding photos on silk.....

Below and on the left is Ruthie and me in Melbourne, the morning of our wedding. Everyone had met for breakfast. This is my favorite photo of us and it sits on my desk.........
On the right are the three "Flower girls" my dear friends, Ruth, Gloria and Di....


I would be amiss to leave out another of Ruthie's great attributes and that was her great patience with my passion for books. Brisbane is a hotbed of second hand book stores and I am in constant search of books! It is one of my great passions.
Ruthie always made sure I had a book day plus an art museum day. We would catch a taxi or bus downtown and then hit several stores. She would browse for a while and then patiently wait while I perused all the shelves.
We would eat lunch at a local outdoor restaurant and then rush to another bookstore.

The art museum day was more peaceful. We alway went to one special area so I could see Sydney Long's "Spirit of The Plains". It features a beautiful naked woman playing a flute, leading a flock of dancing Brolga Cranes. He is my favorite painter.

We always made time to see the latest museum show and were constantly stopped by people who recognized Ruthie and wanted a visit. She gave so much of her time to the museum, serving as a board member and adviser.

On our very last visit to the museum, I had coaxed Ruthie out of the house....for lunch at the Museum and a special art show by two Australian women artists.
Her hair had grown into a wonderful punky, mohawk and she was quite proud of it. She looked amazing with large dangling earrings and a terrific, brightly coloured outfit.
A male aquaintance walked up to say hello..."Ruthie, he asked hesitantly, is your hair a fashion statement or have you been ill? She smiled and said "Oh a bit of both I suppose." That was Ruthie!
The photo to the left is of Ruthie patiently waiting outside a bookstore and the one below is of us on one of our many cappucino breaks at the Art Museum.


While Ruthie was a dear friend, a marvelous teacher and a talented artist, above everything else she was a proud mother. She had raised Ben and Adam on her own and was fearsomely protective. She loved and adored her boys. She alway thought they were her greatest achievement. There was a bond among the three that was unmistakable and unspoken.
(Here is a photo of Ruth and her sons. Ben is on the left and Adam is on the right. I love this photo, it was at Ben's wedding and she was so happy and so proud.)

Our sons met years ago when Jason joined me on a tour down under. He had just turned eighteen (legal drinking age in Australia) and Ruthie welcomed him with an amazing gift. When we entered the house she went to the kitchen and flung open the fridge door to reveal over thirty bottle of beer of every brand and type known to man (or at least the local pub). He fell instantly in love and from then on Ruthie was to be revered as Mum's special friend!

Adam came over to meet Jason and they hit it off. They spent lots of time together and even went to a rock concert. But most of all they enjoyed that beer!

I got to know Ben better when he went into business with his mother and worked at the shop. It was a gesture of trust on both their parts.

Ruth and Ben came over to the U.S. for the International Quilt Market and we spent a lot of time together. Ernest and I were able to entertain them in Los Angeles at our home. It was nice to see them together and it was one of Ruth's greatest prides that Ben was in business with her.

Meanwhile Adam and his wife Paige were putting down roots. Ruth was delighted in Paige and so proud of Adam's accomplishments. (He is in oncology lab at the Brisbane Hospital that looked after Ruthie.)

But words could not express the source of pride when they produced her wonderful grandson Wills. She called the day after he was born, raving on about how he looked like both of them and how beautiful he was. By now she had sold the shop and moved to a terrific condominium with a small back garden. She had converted the garage into a studio.

She was teaching embroidery classes at the local church and had a very loyal group of students. They later proved to be a godsend when some of them banded together to get Ruthie to her chemo and radiation appointments.

A couple of years later Ruthie phoned to tell me about her cancer. She was very frightend and aprehensive. I was stunned. It just wasn't fair. Ruthie deserved some peace of mind and happiness. There were numerous phone calls and letters written.

On my last teaching trip I arranged for eight extra days to spend with Ruthie. It was the least I could do for my dear friend. I was worried that she wouldn't be up to my visit. She met me at the airport with Paige, Wills and the newest pride and joy, her grandaughter Kitty! It was easter week and there was someone dressed as a huge Rabbit with a basket standing in the lobby. He came over to say hello to the children.....It was lovely.
We went right to Ruth's place where she had arranged for me to sleep in her room. I was horrified but she explained that she wanted to be in her studio because she did not sleep well and often got up to putter in her studio.
So that was our arrangement. I would hear her get up, then the tears and I would go in and we would talk and talk and talk......I felt so very helpless because I could not make it all better. Our days were quiet and it was wonderful to just be together. This one my favorite picture of Ruthie with the kids and babes.

We saw a lot of Adam, Paige and the children. Wills came over to make cookies one day and we went for a long walk. It was a saving grace for Ruthie to have him in her life. I think he kept her going in the hard times. I hope he remembers all the wonderful times with his grandma Ruthie... That is Wills and his grandmother in the photo on the left.

I went off to teach on the Gold Coast and returned in a week. It seemed that my friend had really rallied. She even ate a huge steak and salad at an outdoors favorite restaurant of ours. We went to the art museum and even went out a couple of times to a local Thai restaurant.....I was really excited.

She had arranged for me to teach for Karen Barrett, owner of The Quilter's Corner. Karen proved to be a true friend and Ruthie loved her. Karen was there for heartfelt support and encouraged Ruthie to keep teaching at her shop. That was so good for Ruthie's morale. I got to know Karen better while teaching at her shop. We often discussed Ruthie and commented on how well she seemed to be....When Ruthie and I said goodbye...I had no idea it would be the last time we would see each other. I really thought she had it beat and we would see each other the coming year.

Ruthie called me to tell me about the new creative surge she was going through. She had rearranged some furniture and had added a heart I had given her to the wall collection. (She loved yellow and hearts) She told me some funny stories about Wills and Kitty and also that Ben had found real happiness with his new lady...It was a happy phone call. Maybe she could come over to stay with us.
She had fallen in love with the south west on her last visit. She had a passion for cowboy boots.


It wasn't meant to be. A few months the cancer returned with a vengence. There were many phone calls and letters. It seemed to be easing but then the phone rang in the middle of the night and it was Paige calling to tell us that Ruthie was in the hospital and it was terminal. It was like a bad dream. My dear friend was dying and so far away.

She had lost the battle and in the final weeks her family, sibblings and mother all rallied around. Karen kept me up to date and then there was the phone call from Adam and Ben. I was in the middle of a seminar in my was a Sunday evening. Ruthie was gone.

I still cannot believe it but I do know that when I push the publish button on this will be my reality.
Ruthie Stoneley was my dear friend and I loved her.

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