October 16, 2013

Peru family donates quilt to county



It was a Christmas present she had once given him, he explained.

When Betty Lou finished the United States quilt, the Arthurs were diligent in protecting it. When not enjoying its visual display, they would cover the quilt in sheets and place it in a cedar cabinet.

The Clinton County Historical Association will follow a similar procedure when the Peru display ends, ensuring that the Arthurs’ contribution to the North County is protected indefinitely.

“She was all for it being in a museum,” Ralph said of how his wife would feel about his decision to donate the quilt. “She would be very proud.”

One of 10 children, Ralph grew up on a farm in Peru. He met Betty Lou Tyrell shortly after he had graduated from high school in 1949 when they were both attending a church meeting.

“I made my decision on the way home (from the meeting) that Betty Lou was going to be the woman I married,” he recalled with a smile.

Life got in the way, however, and Betty Lou became engaged to another man, and Ralph eventually joined the military and was stationed in Alaska during the Korean War.

One night in Alaska, he received a 23-page letter from Betty Lou, detailing to him the changes in her life that had ended her engagement. They wrote each other every day from that point on, and when Ralph returned home, Betty Lou was the first person he wanted to see.

“When I saw her coming down the stairs (on that first day of their reunion), I thought, ‘My God, isn’t she beautiful.’”

They spent their first date at the North Country Club in Keeseville, and they married two years later on June 15, 1957.

It was the proverbial “match made in heaven” over the next half century, and it’s a love that continues with such symbolic measures as the quilt donation.

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