By Susan Fisher
Everyone who knows Hertha Hefner is amazed and impressed by the tasks she accomplishes. Hertha is one of those special people who volunteer to do something and then immediately does it! And then volunteers to do something else.
This is second nature to this Wisconsin native who grew up moving between farms and towns (seven moves in nine years!). In high school it was her after-school chore to disk the plowed furrows to pulverize the dirt for planting. As she puts it, “We lived off the land.”
Hertha says she was always artsy-crafty. When she was around twelve years old she would carefully enlarge the “Draw Me” girls found in the newspaper, but never sent them in to qualify for art school. The one class she didn’t like in high school was bookkeeping. And what did she become as a working adult? A bookkeeper, of course.
Hertha and her husband, John, eventually moved from Wisconsin to Florida. John’s health was not good and it was during his last illness that she learned to quilt. When the company where she worked brought in a new controller from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Hertha thought, “Lancaster? Amish country? His wife must know how to quilt.” And indeed she did.
After work, Hertha would go to the woman’s house to learn the basics.
Fortunately, her teacher used a rotary cutter, which speeded the process. Her
first quilt was an Ohio Star made from templates and machine pieced. When asked
if she still had it, Hertha replied that she considered that her “practice
piece” and never finished it. However, she did complete a Maple Leaf while John
was ill. One of their two daughters still has the quilt.
When that quilt was finished, Hertha put away the ceramics and macramé projects and became a dedicated quilter.
After John’s passing in 1989, Hertha moved to Georgia, then back to Florida. When her daughter’s children were four, three and six months, Hertha moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana to help. Nicknamed “Babe” at an early age, she says she has always been a caregiver, to her mother, husband and children, so assuming the role with her grandchildren came naturally. Quilting in Lake Charles was a challenge as there wasn’t a quilt shop within miles and miles. However, Houston was accessible and she attended her first International Quilt Festival in 1993 pronouncing it “fabulous!”
Hertha, her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren moved back to Georgia in 1996. She says it’s easy to remember when because it was during the Atlanta Olympics. Although their new house was in Buford, the closest hotel they could find was in Villa Rica! But she was just thrilled to be relocating in an area with so many quilters and quilt shops.
Hertha considers herself a “process” rather than “project” person. She says that eventually she finishes everything, but accumulates a lot of UFOs along the way. She enjoys piecing tops but thinks of the quilting as work. Although she makes an occasional T Shirt quilt for a friend or family member, she no longer tackles big quilts or commission work.
However, she does continue to be an active member of both Hall County and Gwinnett guilds as well as a committee chairperson for the Georgia Quilt Council. She loves to go into fabric stores and just feel the fabric. She usually brings some home without an idea of how to use it, but in time it ends up in a quilt. When asked if she likes to attend quilt shows, seminars or retreats she answered an emphatic “Yes!”
For the past couple of years Hertha has been house and dog sitting while her
family was living in England. They returned to Georgia April 12th and shortly
she will move into her own house which will have two quilt rooms: a sunroom with
fabulous light for appliqué and a spare bedroom perfect for a quilt studio.