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Veterans honored in surprise Independence Day ceremony

Following months of sewing and weeks of secrecy, four military veterans were gifted with handcrafted honors Saturday in Eagle Point on the Fourth of July.

In a surprise conspired by Bonnie Scriba and her neighbors, veterans Scott McGrew, Jerry Frazee, John Maas and Benjamin Kottke were each presented Quilts of Valor to honor the service to their country outside Scriba’s home on Robert Trent Jones Boulevard.

“Your wives all knew about this,” Scriba said during the ceremony.

Frazee, who served in Vietnam in Saigon between 1970 and 1971, appeared emotional behind his cloth mask during the morning ceremony. He said he thought he was just joining his wife and the Scribas to “look at some quilts” and enjoy some snacks in a neighborhood get-together after checking out the flyover at the nearby Eagle Point National Cemetery.

“I had no idea it was going to be for us veterans,” Frazee said while holding the patriotic patchwork.

Frazee said he moved to Southern Oregon a decade ago, and says he appreciates how regularly someone thanks him for his service.

“I didn’t get any of that in Southern California,” Frazee said.

Maas, an Air Force veteran who also lives near the Scribas, said he also “didn’t have a clue” he was going to be honored.

“I would go so far as to say I’d been bushwhacked,” Maas said.

Maas said he had mixed emotions standing with his other servicemen. Maas said he served in the Vietnam war in the San Joaquin Valley working on B-52s.

“Some of these guys were in the thick of it,” Maas said.

Scriba insisted Maas deserved the honor, and the effort she put into each quilt.

“He worked on airplanes — that’s an important part of the war effort,” Scriba said.

“Honestly these people are really special to me,” Scriba added of all her neighbors.

Scriba said she’s been “sewing all my life,” describing it as how she used to make her spending money in college and how she used to make her own clothes.

Scriba got involved with Mountain Stars Quilters Guild, which connected her earlier this year with the nonprofit Quilts of Valor — which seeks to provide “comforting and healing” to honorably discharged veterans. Her first project was a surprise quilt for her father in New Hampshire on his 93rd birthday.

Although she finished the quilt in time for April, COVID-19 forced her to cancel her plans. Other family members nearby will surprise him with the quilt she made at a later date, Scriba said.

When the pandemic hit, Scriba initially switched from quilts to face masks, sewing more than 500 of them and giving them away to locals and other parts of the country such as a school district in the state of Washington and a military base in New York.

She collected more than $1,000 in donations from her mask effort, which she donated to the Southern Oregon Humane Society.

Scriba set a goal of making quilts for her three veteran neighbors in time for the Fourth of July.

“What better way to honor this day than to honor our veterans?” Scriba said.

A wrench in her plans came a couple weeks ago when she learned Scott McGrew’s brother-in-law, Benjamin Kottke, would be in the neighborhood visiting for the holiday. She first thought to draw from her quilting guild for help, then decided to roll up her sleeves for the visiting 34-year Army veteran.

“It was my honor,” Scriba said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Veteran Jerry Frazee of Eagle Point reads a letter of authenticity at a surprise Quilts of Valor ceremony Saturday morning in Eagle Point.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Bonnie Scriba stands in front of the quilts she created for a Fourth of July Quilts of Valor ceremony Saturday in Eagle Point.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune