2016-11-11 / Family
Quilters say thanks with a warm gesture
WWII vet receives Quilt of Valor
An Army veteran who served from 1943 to 1945, Mario Castellani was overcome with emotion when he received a Quilt of Valor during a special ceremony in his honor at the Simi Valley Senior Center last week.
“I never expected this,” Castellani, 93, said through tears. “I’ve had a lot of highlights in my lifetime, but I’ll say this is one of the best.”
About 75 people gathered in the veteran’s honor Nov. 2. The half-hour recognition ceremony, during which Castellani received a standing ovation, took place between line-dancing classes taught by Carol Tompson of Simi Valley, Castellani’s daughter.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a national nonprofit launched in 2003. The first quilt was awarded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to a soldier from Minnesota who lost a leg in Iraq.
Since its inception, the organization has awarded about 148,000 quilts, said Lynn Welborn, the Simi Valley resident who proposed the event. She learned about the program recently while watching a TV show about quilting.
“Lynn is the reason why we’re here,” Tompson said to the audience. “Lynn has been in my line dance class for about eight years . . . and she heard about the Quilt of Valor, got curious about it and then remembered my dad because I talk about my dad all the time.
“(Lynn) wanted to honor my dad with the very first quilt that she was going to make, so she got a hold of me and we put this event together,” Tompson said. “And how appropriate because here we have Veterans Day . . . and my dad is here and alive and well.”
The red, white and blue 65-by- 65-inch lap quilt was pieced and bound by Welborn, while Jan Gaudioso of Simi Valley did the quilting. The walk-about pattern on the front features flags with 10-inch squares, while the back is reminiscent of fireworks.
During the recognition ceremony for Castellani, Welborn gave details about the man’s service.
“He joined the Army when he was 19 years old,” Welborn said. “When we were 19, we really thought we were old and tough. But now that we have grandkids at that age, you know how young that is to send them clear across the world with a gun.”
A resident of Glendale for 66 years, Castellani served in the Philippines, New Guinea and Japan during World War II.
“When Carol asked him what his main objective was in the service, he just wanted to stay alive to come home and marry his girlfriend and start a family,” Welborn said. “He was trained a tank driver, and then when they ran out of people in the infantry because they were dying, they transferred him (to the infantry).
“He did earn a combat infantry badge, which you have to be in the infantry and in combat to earn.”
After his military service, Castellani spent more than four decades as a wine house distribution manager, Welborn said.
He and his wife, Cathy, who died in 2008, were married for 60 years. The couple have three children— Cathy, Carol and Steve— seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
During the ceremony, Welborn read a poem written in 2013 by Mary Welch, a volunteer at Quilts of Valor.
“A few pieces of cloth from people who care, to honor your service, it only seems fair. . . . For you who have sacrificed for those here at home, may this quilt warm and comfort you wherever you roam. Our hope with this quilt is to make sure you knew we appreciate all you’ve done and all you’ve been through.”