Nancy Martens stands in front of one of the 40 quilts she made in remembrance of her best friend

Nancy Martens stands in front of one of the 40 quilts she made in remembrance of her best friend

Quilts in memory of a friend

Special quilts show can be viewed at the Sawyer Sewing Centre for the month of April.

Few experience the kind of loving friendship that Nancy Martens and Jeanne Coverdale possessed.

The pair met at Iowa State University in 1971, in a way that would leave many red in the face. Coverdale was under the impression she was going to have a private room and instead was sharing with Martens. No love was lost though, they soon became inseparable.

“The chemistry was just right,” said Martens, a Victoria resident.

Tragedy struck in 2010, when Coverdale was diagnosed with breast cancer. After going through a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and the installation of a pacemaker and defibrillator to deal with heart damage from chemo, she thought the storm had passed.

She planned a party to thank family and friends for support but before that could take place, she fell sick, feeling dizzy. The cancer had returned to her brain. “When it was obvious she wasn’t going to make it, I thought I’d make 40 quilts for the 40 years of our friendship,” said Martens.

Jeanne died Sept. 14, 2011. She would have been 60-years-old in four days.

“She would be trilled, smiling and doing a happy dance to know I was doing this,” Martens said.

Martens had always been a “solo” quilter but after she announced the project, complete strangers stepped forward to offer their talents and passion.

“Now I’ve connected with the Victoria quilting community and they are pretty amazing.”

Before her death, Coverdale designed a quilt panel from the poem What Cancer Cannot Do. Marten’s 40 quilts will all feature the poem’s theme.

“It has some lovely sediments on it like ‘Cancer cannot kill friendship, steal humour or cripple love,’” she said.

The quilts can be viewed at the Sawyer Sewing Centre at 3400 Douglas St., for the month of April. After the show, quilts will be donated as fundraising projects to agencies serving people with cancer.

“The biggest sadness to me was that me and Jeanne planned a lot to do when I retired, but she died before I did. I realized the other day when I was chatting with a friend that I am still doing a lot of things with her.”