Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Doris Idzikowski makes quilt out of man's late wife's T-shirts
WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Doris Idzikowski has put her sewing skills to good use over the years. Most recently, she started making quilts out of T-shirts. The themes are usually sports or military related, but that was until her daughter got an unusual donation at the Polish Center of Wisconsin. Idzikowski stiched together a quilt of love, and Polish pride.
"This is my wife sitting in her reclining chair," said Frank Schultz, showing a photo.
As Shultz flips through the pictures of his wife, Rosemary, you can see a pattern emerge pretty quickly.
"This is her with her 'Everyone loves a Polish girl' T-shirt on," he said fondly.
She has a lot of T-shirts celebrating her Polish heritage -- more than 180, in fact.
"She wore her Polish T-shirts all the time. She was very proud of being Polish," Suchltz said.
Rosemary passed away last June.
"My wife was really a dear. She had 29 operations and never complained," he said.
It left Frank wondering what to do with such a collection. That's where Marie Idzikowski comes in. She's the administrator at the Polish Center of Wisconsin. Frank wanted to make a donation.
"He actually stopped in, had never been here before," she said. "And as he was leaving, lightbulb. There's a lot of T-shirts in here. My mom makes T-shirt quilts."
So she gave her mom, Doris, a call.
"She says, we have quite a few T-shirts, that's all she said," Marie Idzikowski recalled. "I'm not a quilter by any means. And these looked easy for me. You use T-shirts and you make them, and I looked it up on YouTube."
She taught herself how to make these quilts she calls "shabby chic." For the last few years, Doris has been turning T-shirts into all kinds of memories.
"Basketball, softball, different activities like that, a baton twirler. She had me put all of her shirts into a quilt," Doris said.
Doris gives all of her quilts as gifts, and even donates them as fundraising items for the VFW and other organizations.
"It marks a certain time in their life, a good time, good times that they had. Achievements that they made."
But this quilt is a little bit different.
"I just broke down," Schultz said of the first time he saw it. "So many memories of my wife."
"He was overcome with emotion. Both of us were," Doris said.
The quilt is 72 pieces, and made from 26 of Rosemary's favorite shirts -- all collected over a lifetime together.
"Some from when she was in Poland. Some from Polish Fest," he said.
They have different sayings on them -- "Polish Princess," "My better half is Polish," and "Made in America with Polish parts."
"Basically blew my mind, as the kids would say," Schultz said with a laugh.
It's a quilt Doris enjoyed making, too. It made her think about all of their happy memories.
"Where were they when they bought the shirt, where did she wear it? Things like that. It just made me feel good," she said.
And for Marie, it was a chance meeting that brought people together around a shared heritage.
"When they came together it was really, really touching to know that she could do something like that for someone and have it mean that much. Because you never know what one little simple gesture can mean to somebody," Marie said.
Doris may downplay her quilt-making skills.
"I'm sort of embarrassed when I say quilting because there are ladies that make the most beautiful, outstanding quilts, and mine is very simple," she said.
But this simple quilt is a piece of his wife's memory that Frank will hold onto forever.
"It's just unbelievable, the work that she goes through out of the goodness of her heart. It's nice to know there's still people like that in the world," he said.
Frank and Rosemary were married for 61 years.
For more information on the Polish Center of Wisconsin, click here.
If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.