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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In Memoriam: Phyllis Fife Sanborn

In Memoriam: Phyllis Fife Sanborn

Patricia L. Cummings


Today, I have been reflecting on the loss of someone who changed my life when I was about 12 years old. I had just moved to a small town and in learning about the 4-H Club there, I joined the sewing group. While it is true that my mother taught me how to embroider, it was Mrs. Sanborn who taught me how to sew. The first project was simple: making a pair of slippers out of two terry washcloths. The next project was an apron. These first two projects were made on a sewing machine and that represented the first time I ever used a machine to sew.

The Gift

In learning that a County Dress Review was coming up soon, Mrs. Sanborn taught me to make a white blouse with bell-cap sleeves and lace and a stand up neck as well as a hunter green lightweight jumper with a square neck and pockets. I came home with a ribbon after showing these two items by wearing them.

A ribbon I saved from 1967. Just call me a pack rat!


I did not do a lot of sewing during high school. Not much time remained by the time I did all of my homework. The next items of apparel that I recall making was a wool plaid mini-skirt reminiscent of Creamsicle ice cream in its coloration, I was a senior in college at the time. After that, I made my wedding gown and then a suit for my husband and a country style shirt in black and white. With each project, I stopped a moment to reflect on this "gift" given to me by Mrs. Sanborn, one that cannot be visually seen. The gift was confidence in myself to sew and enough instruction to ensure quality, no matter what task I attempted. The gift of one's time can never be overestimated.

A Quilter

These days I do not make a lot of clothing but I have made hundreds of quilts and quilted textiles from miniature quilts to queen size quilts. I smiled when I learned that Mrs. Sanborn made quilts, too.

The World as My Oyster

Within a short time of joining 4-H, I became a 4-H Junior Leader. As such, I was selected to go to the National 4-H Center for 4-H Congress.

From left: Lydia Hickey, Gary Nelson, Patricia Grace (me), (the late) David Hersey, and Mary Weiss. We were selected to attend 4-H Congress (date unknown- late 1960s?)

Always Ready to Learn

More and more I believe that God puts people in our path who can help us in our life's journey. They are a blessing and often, they ask nothing in return other than the joy and satisfaction in helping to encourage a young person or other person who needs instruction. Mrs. Sanborn was a good teacher, quiet in her ways, and thorough in her instruction. I enjoyed the feeling of peace that she exuded.


I was 12 years old when I painted this picture
based on a published workbook on painting

The Teachers

About the same time that I took sewing lessons from Mrs. Sanborn, my sister (who is much older) gave me some instruction in oil painting. The painting seen above is the first one I ever finished. Another lady whose name I do not recall ran a group for knitting. As a newlywed, I learned to crochet. and after joining the Embroiderers' Guild of America, I leaned many embroidery techniques via workshops and correspondence courses. However, the age of 12 was a pivotal year for me in learning how to sew using a machine.

Quilting Bee in the Sky

I hope that Mrs. Sanborn is enjoying her rest and will soon be participating in the quilting bee in the sky.


"The Quilting Party" song by Stephen Foster


Just the other night I was watching a re-run of the Waltons, a segment about "a quilting." They played this old song at the conclusion of the show, one that I always enjoy hearing.

In Conclusion

It is fitting to think of the Waltoms in association with Mrs. Sanborn. I believe she held the same old-time values that are much appreciated, especially in today's world. Instead of saying, "Good night, John-boy," we shall have to conclude by saying "Good Night, Mrs. Sanborn." We love you and shall miss your presence but always remember your smile and your joy in the simple things of life.

Bennett Funeral Home, Concord, NH is in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Salvation Army.



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