Two blocks of AIDS memorial quilt will be on display at Ottawa church

Quilt will be on display beginning June 3

Two blocks of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt are coming June 3-12 to Ottawa.

They will be housed in the sanctuary of Open Table United Church of Christ at 910 Columbus St.

This is the first time any section of the AIDS Quilt will be on display in La Salle County. One of the panels was sewn by church member Dawn Haggard, in memory of her brother-in-law, Dennis Haggard. Another panel honors Dr. Tom Waddell, a 1968 Olympic athlete who founded the Gay Games.

The AIDS Quilt was conceived in 1985 by long-time gay rights activist Cleve Jones. Beginning in 1978, Jones organized the annual candlelight march honoring slain San Francisco politicians Harvey Milk and George Moscone. While planning the 1985 march, Jones learned more than 1,000 San Franciscans had been lost to AIDS. Jones asked the marchers to write on placards the names of friends and loved ones who had died of AIDS. At the end of the march, the cards were taped to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names resembled a patchwork quilt.

A year later, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS and to help people understand the devastating impact of the disease. This meeting served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Public response to the quilt was immediate. People in U.S. cities most affected by AIDS sent panels to the San Francisco workshop. Generous donors rapidly supplied sewing machines and materials. Many volunteered to sew the panels into 12 foot squares.

On October 11, 1987, the quilt was displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It included 1,920 blocks.

By 1992, the AIDS Memorial Quilt included panels from every state and 28 countries. The last display of the entire Quilt was in October of 1996 when the Quilt covered the entire National Mall with an estimated 1.2 million people coming to view it.

A block of the Quilt measures 12-by-12 feet with 8 panels per block. Each panel on the quilt is 3-by-6 feet, representing the size of a grave. Today, the 50,000 paneled quilt weighs 54 tons and is housed in San Francisco. More than 100,000 individuals have been memorialized by the quilt. The quilt is considered the largest community arts project in history.

The viewing hours for the quilt are as follows: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 3; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 4; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 5; 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 10; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 11; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 12.

In addition to viewing the quilt, educational materials will be available. The event is free and open to the public.