Quilt of Valor presented to World War II veteran
WENATCHEE — World War II veteran Erick Erickson received a custom-made Quilt of Valor recently during a short ceremony.
The ceremony took place last month at Columbia Heights Senior Community on Cherry Street in Wenatchee, where he and wife Ida live. The couple formerly farmed in George for many years.
Pam Humphreys, who crafted the quilt, traveled from her home in Oklahoma to present the quilt to Erickson. The Ericksons and Humphreys have become good friends since meeting at a USS Saratoga Reunion in Branson, Mo., in 2009.
Raised in a houseboat on the Duwamish River, Erickson joined the U.S. Merchant Marine in 1941 at age 16 (his mom wrote a letter giving him permission). He enlisted in the Navy a year later after Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Erickson served aboard the Saratoga for more than three years during the war, surviving through some of the Pacific’s fiercest sea battles, including multiple kamikaze attacks during the battle of Iwo Jima as U.S. troops fought to overtake the crucial island. He was honorably discharged from the Navy at war’s end. He later became a dairy farmer, living in George for a number of years before moving to Wenatchee.
Humphreys’ father also served on the Saratoga during World War II, but he and Erickson never met. The massive carrier was home to more than 3,000 men who comprised crews that worked around the clock. Erickson, now 91, was a watertender aboard the carrier, tending to the fires and the engines in the ship’s boiler room.
During last month’s Quilt of Valor ceremony, Humphreys read from a story she wrote about Erickson and other men like him who she’s befriended in recent years at various Saratoga reunions.
“They shared stories about the ship as if speaking of an old friend … ” she said. “As I listened and recorded the stories, they assured me I would be treated with as much respect as my dad. They call those like me who come to reunions with their dads, ‘Sara’s Kids.’”
Their stories inspired her to make a Quilt of Valor for each of her World War II friends.
Since its inception in 2003, the Quilts of Valor Foundation has given more than 130,000 quilts to service members and veterans.
Humphreys said the quilt she made Erickson is tailored specifically for him.
“I picked out the bright red, white and blue fabrics and sewed panels in the center with U.S. Navy written on one, servicemen from the various branches on another and a serviceman kneeling in prayer because Erick served as chaplain for the USS Saratoga Association for many years. He loves God and this country,” she wrote. “I backed the quilt with anchors to remind him of his service in the U.S. Navy and attached the Quilt of Valor patch.”
Erickson said health concerns have made it difficult for him to make it to recent USS Saratoga reunions. He said he was especially appreciative of the time and care that Humphreys put into his quilt project.
— By Marco Martinez, Wenatchee World