Half a dozen quilts uncovered from region struck by deadly tornado

Search for quilts shows a glimmer of hope for family of victims

OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - A week after an EF-3 tornado tore through Brunswick County, people continue to find pieces of hope hidden in the rubble.

Phyllis O’Connor and her husband, Richard, were killed in the storm. The twister also scattered close to 30 handmade quilts she was storing at home that were set to be donated to charity.

So far, six quilts have been recovered.

”The first one was in Ash, about 10 miles away and we’ve had a second one from Ash and I know one was found on Windsor Circle, which is the area that was hit so badly, in a tree. They were cleaning up there on Sunday and a couple of people looked up and said ‘It looks like a quilt!’” said Ocean Ridge Quilting Club president Maggy Schlink.

Though some of the quilts traveled miles through the air, they’re in fantastic condition. One or two have small tears, but nothing members of the club can’t repair.

O’Connor’s friend and fellow quilter, Melanie Kelley, has been tracking down each piece and getting them cleaned up.

“It’s both difficult and exciting every time I get one of these phone calls. It makes me think about ‘Phyll’, but at the same time then I realize ‘holy cow from 12 1/2 miles away, through three phone calls with unrelated people, somehow they find their way back to me so I can get them to the appropriate place,’” explained Kelley.

Kelley will return the three quilts made by O’Connor to her family, who now have very few items to remember her by.

While the O’Connor’s loved ones will treasure the quilts, the search for them is something that’s mending the wounds of the entire community.

”Their house was picked up and dumped on another house and everything they own is gone, and they’re gone and we’re in shock about that. And one way for us to celebrate them and to show our community to each other — toward each other is through these quilts, because we can remember her, remember Rich, and we can think about how we can help each other,” said Kelley.

Quilt groups from Oak Island, St James Plantation and even Myrtle Beach have reached out to the Ocean Ridge group offering support. Women up and down the coast have pledged to furnish 40 quilts for the group to honor their commitments to donate handmade quilts to the Rose House when it opens. Tubs stacked with quilt tops and more than 75 yards of fabric lay in Kelley’s front hallway.

“You know, it’s just a little glimpse of the fact that there’s something bigger than all of us that is at play here,” said Schlink.

The search for those cherished quilts continues. Each one provides a smile, some tears,and further weaves the legacy of Phyllis O’Connor into the fabric of the neighborhood.

“People are looking — walking around the neighborhood looking for them. I mean it just, it brings the whole community back together and Phyl would be happy. She would really — she’d be thrilled by that,” added Kelley through tears.

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