LCFH Volunteer Made Thousands of Pillowcases to Bring Cheer to Patients
Whether it was through one of her hand-made, cheerful pillowcases, playing the piano at church or in care facilities for people with dementia, or making cheese biscuits for her grandchildren, Sara Truesdale touched thousands of lives and brought smiles to faces wherever she went.
In 2010, Mrs. Truesdale’s husband, Mr. John Truesdale, was a patient at the Dr. Robert M. Fales Hospice Pavilion in Wilmington. Common Threads from Pine Valley United Methodist Church in Wilmington make pillowcases with bright butterflies for the patients at the care center, to lift their spirits and provide a personal touch, and Mr. Truesdale received one of their pillowcases.
After her husband’s death, Mrs. Truesdale was interested in making cheerful pillowcases for patients in Brunswick County. She hadn’t made the pillowcases before, but she watched the Wilmington group making pillowcases.
“And I said, ‘Well I can do that,’” she said recently. “I like creative things.”
Wanting the pillows to be bright and cheerful, she used fabric with butterfly patterns and added strips of bright fabric to the borders. Each set of fabrics was carefully selected, to ensure the colorful border matched the colors in the butterfly pattern. While seeking out fabrics with butterflies, she made sure that she had some fabrics that would appeal to men as well as women. She stayed in touch with the group in Wilmington, who were able to order fabric in bulk and provided some of the fabric for Mrs. Truesdale’s pillowcases.
“The artistry really came out in [her pillowcases],” her daughter, Connie Parker, said. “She never thought of herself as an artist, but she had so much fun looking at the colors that she was able to find, or that she received from friends and family.”
“People deserve to have something pretty to look at,” Mrs. Truesdale said of the pillowcases.
Each pillowcase was carefully and lovingly created. Mrs. Truesdale would wash the fabrics at her home, to ensure they wouldn’t fade after they were given to patients. She’d hang them with clothespins to dry, and when they were dry, lightly starch and fold the fabrics. When the finished pillowcases were delivered, each one was crisply folded.
“We’d go to her house and the whole bathroom was full of fabric that she’d washed and pressed,” added daughter-in-law Peggy Truesdale. “At Christmas, she said she didn’t need anything. She just wanted fabric. So we would find different fabrics, different butterfly fabrics, and have them in her box so she could do her pillowcases. That’s what she wanted.”
“She would pray over each one and imagine who might be receiving it. Each one was made with love,” Parker said. “It brought her so much joy, and it was like she was driven.”
Mrs. Truesdale called the room where she made the pillowcases her happy room, Parker added. The room was filled with morning sunshine, and her sewing machine was angled so she could look out the window at a bluebird box, flowers and plants outside, and a pond filled with ducks, birds and turtles.
Her efforts have brought comfort to countless patients and families with Lower Cape Fear Hospice. But Mrs. Truesdale’s large heart and dedication reached far and wide.
She also made pillowcases for members of the Armed Services receiving care in military hospitals, sending them as far away as Germany, with carefully-selected fabric with patriotic themes or with prints representative of the different branches of service. Mrs. Truesdale made more than 800 pillowcases just for wounded servicemembers at military hospitals.
And many of her special pillowcases were designed specifically for children. Many years before, Mr. and Mrs. Truesdale had stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near the Duke Children’s Hospital. While there, she noticed that many children arrived with only the clothes they were wearing and only had what was supplied for them during their stay. The memory had stayed with her and, when making pillowcases in the years that followed, she made some specifically for the children there, so they would have something personal and cheerful while there. Mrs. Truesdale would find fabrics for children, sometimes with butterflies or sometimes with dinosaurs.
“I can’t tell you how many pillows and lap blankets she’s given to those in nursing homes, in the hospital,” said Parker.
“And members of her church that were shut in,” added Peggy Truesdale.
“Or pillows for people to prop their elbows on, or heart pillows for women who have had mastectomies,” Parker added.
Mrs. Truesdale recognized that often, people with dementia remember music long after other memories have faded. A long-time church pianist, she played the piano for dementia patients at Autumn Care of Shallotte for nearly a decade, relishing when the music would trigger a memory or a smile for one of the patients.
“Music has been an integral part of growing up and throughout her life,” Parker said. “And she knew how important music is to people That’s why she wanted to share it with people who have Alzheimer’s – that’s one of the things they could connect with, and it would bring them a happy memory.”
“She’s a remarkable woman and an amazing mother,” said Parker. “She’s determined and passionate and loves the Lord above all.”
“And then her husband and her children,” added Peggy Truesdale. “And she makes the best cheese biscuits in the world. On my goodness, the grandchildren used to fight over them!
“Everybody that ever comes in contact with her for any length of time, they just love her.”
“And she loved everybody,” Parker said, adding that the last nine years, since Mr. Truesdale died, had been hard for her mother. “But she found a new mission and a new purpose, and she’s put us all to shame.”
Mrs. Sara Truesdale died on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the SECU Hospice House of Brunswick.