SIKESTON - The U.S. Post Office in Sikeston is flying the colors like no other thanks to Bertha Bowman.
Bowman used her needle, thread and a lot of red, white and blue material to express her love for her country. She created a one-of-kind American quilt complete with U.S. map and details on each of the 50 states.
Bowman, better known by her friends and local youngsters as Mrs. Bert, has created an American quilt, featuring the each state's bird, a United States map, stars and bars.
Tina Withrow, U.S. Post Office window clerk, has enjoyed watching customers' reactions as they enter the building and see the quilt. It draws oohs, ahhs and lots of praise from postal patrons.
"Everybody just loves it," said Withrow. "They think it is beautifully and a very neat idea."
The postal employee noted many go up for a closer look at the quilt's details. The individual birds and the detailed map, with each state capital marked, catch their eyes. Many postal patrons, Withrow said, realize the amount of time that must have gone in to creating the work.
For Bowman her favorite portion of the quilt is the wording, "God Bless America Please!" inscribed just above the map.
"I thought I would put 'God Bless America' on it so everyone one could see that God blesses America," she explained. "I love America. I thank God every day that I'm part of this world."
Quilting, cross-stitch and embroidery are an important part of Bowman's pastime. She said her family loves to quilt and she has made quilts for each of her 11 grandchildren.
The American flag quilt was completed by Bowman over five years. She began the embroidery and piecing as something to do while caring for her husband during his dialysis treatments three times a week. Following his death in 1999, she quilted the work and started offering it to Scout groups, 4-H clubs and others to use as a backdrop for their patriotic displays.
Most recently when the recovery efforts at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon captured hers and the nation's attention, she said she began thinking about what she could do.
"It was so sad and I wanted to do something so I decided I'm just going to call the Post Office to see if I could hang (the quilt) there," Mrs. Bowman said.
Postal officials wanted to know how big the quilt was, then enthusiastically volunteered: "We will make room," she said with a laugh. The red, white and blue began flying along the wall in the office last Tuesday.
Seeing her flag quilt displayed and the other flags flying around Sikeston bring a mix of emotions to the 76-year-old Sikeston resident. "It is very sad. I have been praying for our freedom for years and years. Sometimes I think perhaps we have let God down ... we haven't been as faithful as we should."
Her patriotism is unwavering. She noted she has lived through one war, with her two brothers serving during World War II. Also her two sons were in the service. "I may see my see three grandsons have to go in. It is hitting home and it's frightening."
But her quilt and its message of patriotism and of God's blessings prove to be a comfort. "I just keep saying 'God bless America,' it is sad, but it helps me. It reminds me that I'm in there fighting for my country. I would die for my flag."