Remembering Dorothy Lee
By Terry Gallegos, President, Quilt For A Cause, Inc.
In 2002, Dorothy Lee was a member of the Steering Committee for Quilt For a Cause when it was a goal of Jeannie (Beahan) Coleman and Carol Zupancic to help women who had been affected by breast cancer or gynecological cancer. The group wanted to show support to those women and thought about using quilts to assist in that effort. With the assistance of the Tucson Quilters Guild, the first Live and Silent Auction of Quilts happened on November 15, 2003. The fundraising effort realized enough money to donate to two organizations that supported their mission, Dr. Joel Childers’ Memorial Fund, part of Tucson Medical Center Foundation, and The American Cancer Society for breast cancer research. They raised $53,000 and gave it all away! Six of the 208 quilts in the auction were donated by Dorothy Lee.
Serving as a member of the Quilt For a Cause, Inc. Board of Directors after they became an incorporated, non-profit organization, Dorothy supported the effort by making quilts and donating them for subsequent auctions in 2006, 2009 and 2013. As the emphasis began to focus on patterns to sell as fundraisers, she made several quilts that became samples to display for the various patterns. Her friend, Saw-Peng Laracuente, quilted many of the tops that Dorothy made for Quilt For a Cause. Dorothy used Asian fabrics to make the quilts, giving a new and different look for each pattern. Those quilts are still used as samples for the pattern sales. Her work often included quilts made from fabrics that featured characters from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schultz, creating fun and whimsical pieces.
Dorothy Lee served as the Vendor Co-Chairperson for Tucson Quilters Guild Quilt Show planning committee for many years. She worked to organize the merchants who displayed and sold their products at the show. She was a member of the Pacific Rim Quilt Bee, making quilts inspired with Asian themes, in the fabric and the quilting designs.
Dorothy was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and, sadly, she passed way very soon after her diagnosis. She resigned from the Board of Directors of Quilt For a Cause by saying that, now I am the one in need of help, as we have helped others. Because of her involvement with these three quilting groups, a proposal was made, to the Tucson Quilters Guild, to create an award to honor her memory. With permission from her family, the Dorothy Lee Memorial Award was established to be presented annually at the Tucson Quilters Guild Quilt Show Fiesta. It was decided to give this ribbon award for five years, in her honor. One member from each organization, Quilt For a Cause, Tucson Quilters Guild and the Pacific Rim Quilting Bee, would be a committee to review all of the quilts and select a recipient based on these guidelines:
To choose one quilt to receive the award that they consider to best exemplify the criteria that highlights Dorothy’s Asian heritage in any of the following ways:
- Includes Asian-inspired fabric
- Uses an Asian technique in the design or quilting
- Has an Asian theme
- Includes Asian-style symbols or art
Members of the Pacific Rim Quilting Bee designed and made the ribbon toppers in a large square, turned on point with an antique gold Asian background, bound with black fabric and with a striking Asian symbol embroidered in the center of it. The Quilt Fiesta Ribbon Committee donated the ribbons attached to the topper with the identification of the award and the year it was given. In 2016 and 2017, the first and second years of the award, Janet Pugh was the recipient of the Dorothy Lee Memorial Award ribbon for her quilts Waiting and Japanese Sampler respectively. The third year of the award went to Gloria Bifulk for her quilt, Tranquility. The fourth year, the award went to Regina Bechard for her quilt: A Celebration of Happiness, Harmony and Love.
The fifth and final year of the Dorothy Lee Memorial Award will be selected from the quilts at the Tucson Quilt Fiesta in February, 2020. Dorothy was the maker of numerous fabulous quilts, an inspiration to so many in the quilting world, a kind and generous person and someone who shall be remembered for her work with the three organizations that have continued to honor her in this prestigious way.
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