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Bill Leanna of Scappoose honored with quilt on 93rd birthday for serving in U.S. Navy

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Bill Leanna (seated) is honored with a Quilt of Valor for his 93rd birthday at Brookdale Rose Valley Senior Living in Scappoose. Pictured with Leanna: Northwest Quilters QOV volunteers Maria Fenstermaker, Robert Eldred, and Maureen Orr Eldred.For his 93rd birthday, Bill Leanna was gifted with a quilt.

It wasn't just any quilt. Leanna, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran, received a Quilt of Valor for his military service in the 1940s.

After returning from dinner with his children and great grandchildren at Ixtapa Family Mexican Restaurant in Scappoose Wednesday evening, Feb. 13, Leanna was greeted by a lobby full of residents and guests at Brookdale Rose Valley Senior Living. The guests gathered to honor Leanna on his birthday for his service several decades ago.

"Quilts of Valor are considered the civilian equivalent of a military award," Maureen Orr Eldred said Wednesday, before she and two other volunteers presented Leanna with a handmade quilt. "This quilt is an expression of gratitude from the American people. We're privileged to honor you, who served your country when asked."

Orr Eldred, alongside her husband, Robert Eldred, a Vietnam War veteran, and fellow QOV volunteer Maria Fenstermaker, stood beside Leanna as they splayed out the blanket, patched together from fabric patterned with Ohio stars in red, white and blue. Quilts of Valor is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating high-quality quilts for veterans as a token of gratitude and appreciation for their military service. Since its 2003 inception, the organization has gifted more than 212,000 quilts to veterans throughout the U.S.

Orr Eldred estimates her volunteer group, Northwest Quilters QOV Volunteers, which serves the Portland metro region and Columbia County, has crafted and delivered more than 800 quilts. The group meets at her and her husband's home in Washington County each month, or more often if needed.

"Each quilt takes about 100 hours," Orr Eldred said. "They cannot be purchased or sold."

"We have more fabric in our house than some small quilt shops," Robert Eldred noted.

"Pretty neat," Leanna said, gazing at the vibrant patchwork colors. His son, Gale Leanna, who served in the Vietnam War, stood beside him. Several generations of family and neighbors, including another Vietnam War veteran and a 95-year-old fellow World War II vet, joined in the birthday celebration to honor their friend and neighbor.

"It's great what they did," Richard Leanna said Wednesday of the ceremony to honor his grandfather. The Columbia City man said most of the older generations who served in foreign wars returned to civilian life without ever talking about the impacts of war. "A lot of us don't know the story of what really happened."

Quilts of Valor relies on nominations and outreach from the public to honor service members and veterans.

To nominate yourself or someone else, visit www.QOVF.org and select "take action."

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