Story by Lourice Angie
Local veteran Edmund ‘Gene’ White was presented with a Quilt of Valor on Tues., Jan. 9 with his daughter, Melissa Boxman, by his side, on behalf of the Warwick Valley Quilters Guild in association with Sussex County Quilters and the QOV (Quilts of Valor Foundation). The special honor was received before the start of the quilters meeting in the Warwick Senior Center.
Carol Johnson, group leader of the QOV Sussex County Quilters, called upon Gene and his daughter, Melissa, to share a few words. Melissa spoke first, becoming emotional before the crowded room of quilters as she shared details of her father’s years of service in the Navy and told the story of how her parents met.
“I thank you so much for this lovely honor and for having us here today; we’re just taken aback. It’s wonderful, such a nice group of people,” said Melissa.
Her father is a long time Warwick resident as well as a musician, veteran, husband, and friend who served in the U.S Navy from Sept. 1, 1948 to Aug. 26, 1953. He attended the traditional military boot camp training and went on to join the Naval School of Music, where he played the trumpet in a military band. Shortly after, Gene attended the Naval Air Station, where he met his loving wife, Anna Bryant, from Warwick. Anna was a Naval Wave who worked teletype in the Air Control Tower at the Naval Air Station.
Gene recalls looking down from a window and seeing Anna walking across the station wearing a great pair of red shoes, and thought to himself, “She’s going to be the one.” Apparently he was right because the couple fell in love and married on Sept., 21, 1952. Gene finished his tour with the Navy on the USS Bennington, where he achieved a rank of E5 Petty Officer 2nd Class in 1953.
Gene and Anna moved back to Warwick where he pursued his passion for music, playing in several small bands. One of the most notable being, “Touch of Brass,” a band that White started and performed with for many years.
In addition to music, Gene was involved with the community through a multitude of volunteer services including the Warwick Historical Society and the Warwick Humane Society. He is recognized for performing the traditional military Taps tune during flag ceremonies.
“It’s always a pleasure to hear the stories behind the people being awarded, and it’s especially good when there’s a relative here to give a personal view and purple light to the person we award this to. I’d like you to know that this quilt was signed by many of the attendees at the New Jersey State Fair and each block was signed with love and the children’s blocks are lovingly done with a surprising amount of thought. On behalf of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, we award you this quilt to honor and comfort you, though we may never know the depth of your sacrifice to protect and defend the United States of America. As a gesture of gratitude from a grateful nation please accept your Quilt of Valor,” said Carol Johnson, leader of the Sussex County Quilters.
Gene said, “I don’t know what I can add to what my daughter said. She did such a fantastic job. I feel very honored that I was even brought here for this. Music was my life and then I was able to go into the Navy and I spent all my time in the Navy on the ships and some of the ships didn’t do so well because they had some bad meetings out in the carriers and you never knew if you were going to go, but it was a great thing and an experience I’ll never forget. It’s just been wonderful to be able to find my wife in the Navy; you don’t usually find that. We’ve done very well here in Warwick. I thank you and I thank my daughter for doing such a great job.
Although, the honor of receiving the Quilt of Valor could not be shared with his wife of 64 years, who sadly passed away on March 23, 2017, her memory was kindly spoken of. The sincerest presence of love could be felt, a love that continues to live on.
About QOV Sussex County Quilters
Quilts of Valor is a non-profit foundation whose goal is to cover all physically or psychologically wounded service members with a freedom quilt, honoring them for their sacrifices. The movement was originally started by Catherine Roberts of Seaford, DE in 2003 but has now spread across the U.S and even has an international presence. The Sussex County QOV, in association with the Warwick Valley Quilters Guild, has awarded quilts to service men and women all over the country including those serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Washington D.C., and many veterans hospitals. This project is made possible through the donations of fabric, the hours of work and the enthusiasm of the members of the Warwick Guild. Monetary donations from many generous individuals also help to purchase fabric to complete the quilts.
For the past four summers the guild has shared a booth at the NJ State Fair. Many people stopped by the booth to sign a block or two. Completed beautiful quilts were hung up around the booth. With more signature blocks signed, more quilts of valor were stitched up and made ready to be awarded.
To join in the support for troops and veterans by making a monetary or fabric donation, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and write “QOV” in the subject line. Sussex County Quilters meets the third Wednesday of every month to make quilts at the Vernon PAL building in Vernon, NJ. Anyone interested is welcome to join.