Thursday, May 24, 2007

'Quilt Lady's' special gifts to Indy 500 winners endure

Her name is Jeanetta Holder, but she's simply known as "The Quilt Lady" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

For more than 30 years, Avon's Jeanetta Holder has fashioned a special quilt for the Indy 500 winner. the quilt behind here will be raffled off for charity. - Richard D. Walton / For The Star
For more than 30 years she has fashioned a special quilt for the Indy 500 winner, and this year is no different. The 74-year-old Holder -- she turns 75 on Wednesday -- has prepared a quilt bearing the signatures of all but one of the 500 champions. The missing year: 1920.
"It was a Gaston Chevrolet," Holder said. "I know where his autograph is at, but I haven't been able to get to that state to pick it up."
She has presented the quilts to each of the winners starting with Johnny Rutherford in 1976.
"Al Unser (Sr.) said he'd (still) have his quilt when the money's gone," she recalls. Fellow four-time winner Rick Mears joked that he built on a room to his house to house all his quilts. And A.J. Foyt denied a rumor Holder heard that he had sold his quilt. "Somebody's trying to stir up trouble," he told her.
Holder, who lives in Avon, once made a red, white and blue quilt for Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, hero of the Persian Gulf War. In the rush to get the job done before the general's visit to Indianapolis, she included only 12 of Old Glory's 13 stripes.
"I told him that when he went back and finished the war, I'd finish his quilt."
Holder also does quilts for winners of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
Holder is fashioning a quilt to be raffled off in February to support a scholarship fund in the name of Rich Vogler, a former Indy 500 driver killed in a 1990 Sprint car race at Salem Speedway in Southern Indiana.
Holder was once neighbors with Vogler.
"He used to run up behind me in his car and start blowing his horn, letting on like he's going to hit me. He'd go on by me and just laugh," she said.
Eleanor Vogler, the late race driver's mother, said Holder has raised thousands of dollars for scholarships given to people with connections to racing.
"She buys all the material. She works diligently on it," Vogler said. "She's really a very good-hearted person.
Not only that, Holder, who did some racing long ago -- "I've been upside down in a couple of cars," she says -- knows how to market her wares.
During May, she sits in the lobby of the Brickyard Resort & Inn weaving her quilting magic. Beside her are the scholarship raffle tickets, which sell for $2 each.
"People get nosey and they come over to see what I'm doing," she says. "And then I sell them a chance on it."

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