The Quest of 1,000 Comforters

In 1939 when Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative was founded it wasn’t uncommon for people to make their own clothing and other everyday household necessities. Today it is far less customary, for most people it’s more convenient to go to your nearest store or shop online for a needed item. Handmade goods today are truly rare and special, which is what makes the handcrafted quilt-like comforters made by Mr. Orie Roth of Brookings so extraordinary.

Mr. Roth is an all-around remarkable individual. He walks around with the joyful exuberance, kind eyes and a genuine smile that belies his age of 96. Orie has a lifetime of achievement and public service but now dedicates his time to crafting hand-made quilt-like comforters. As of December 2019, Orie has completed, a jaw dropping, 978 beautiful coverings, with a remarkable goal of creating 1,000. A goal he expects to reach by the middle of 2020!

Orie’s late wife of 73 years, Ina, began making bedding and children’s clothing with their church group when they first married. That group of women was one of many in the Mennonite community that makes blankets and donates them all over the world for disaster relief, families, refugees, elderly, and homeless. Last year alone the community shipped 53,198 blankets to people in need around the world!

“Around 12-13 years ago my wife became disabled, making it difficult to complete the comforters by herself,” shared Orie. That’s when Orie decided he could conquer comforter making, “What could be so hard?” he wondered. His first completed comforter was a gift to his grandson Adrian. Mr. and Mrs. Roth continued making the comforters together, his wife did his least favorite part, the binding work. This was their joint labor of love while living in Fresno, CA, conveniently near a Mennonite drop off station for the comforters and supply kits. After his wife passed earlier this year, Orie moved to Brookings to be near family. Orie’s family is happy to have him close by. His son, Karl, and daughter, Dawn, gather materials wherever they can find them and Virginia, his daughter-in-law, delivers the completed comforters to a drop off location in Hubbard, Oregon.

In addition to sewing, Orie is a skilled woodworker. He has made tables with beautiful inlays, wooden toys and games and dozens of dressers which he also donated. He also makes the quilt racks to place the comforters on and will give them away periodically to others that may need them. When motivated, Orie can complete a comforter within a couple of days, he prefers to use 5-inch squares of non-stretchable fabric, staying away from silks or satin if possible, to ensure the quality of the finished product. He now completes the dreaded binding himself and whenever he feels discouraged about being able to reach the goal of 1,000 quilts, he remembers his wife, their humble beginnings and her words, “Don’t give up!”

Orie is always looking for more materials: fabric, thread and binding for his quilts. Coos-Curry Electric Charitable Foundation hopes its modest donation helps get him closer to his goal and fulfilling the mission of giving hope, warmth and comfort for those in need.

By Miranda Thompson

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