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On Educating LaRue: Quilt commemorates Lincoln play, musical

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By Ron Benningfield

 Nancy Sprowles is a practical person who believes in the old adage “waste not, want not.”

She incorporated that philosophy with leftover pieces of material used in costumes for a school production into a full/queen-size log cabin quilt that she presented to Penny Akers, music teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School last month.

The quilt, like the school, has a direct connection to the Abraham Lincoln motif.

Akers directed “Lincoln, a Man for All Times,” a musical production written in 2007 by Glen Rice, local music producer and retired educator, and Pam Thurman, a Bowling Green music teacher.

With the help of most of the staff at ALES plus several community volunteers, the school’s fourth and fifth grade students performed the production in 2008.

“As we prepared them to perform, I decided I wanted all of our 170-plus fourth and fifth grade students to be in period costumes,” Akers recalled. 

Sprowles coordinated the committee of seamstresses who created Lincoln-period attire complete with suspenders for the boys and bonnets that matched the girls’ skirts. 

“The completed costumes were absolutely beautiful,” Akers said.

Sprowles already had thoughts of a quilt in mind as she and the other women worked on the project.

“I told them to be sure to save the leftover pieces,” she said. “I hated to waste any of the material, and got most of it from remnants we cut off while hemming the bottom of the skirts.”

During the ALES Awards Day ceremony two months after the students performed the musical, Principal Amber Thurman thanked Akers for her directing the production and then surprised her with the quilt top that Sprowles had pieced.

“It was really amazing to see fabric in the quilt from all those costumes my students wore,” said Akers. “I was speechless, which is pretty unusual for me.”

As she pondered whom she would ask to finish the quilt, she thought it needed to be done by a LaRue County person since Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, the fabric was from costumes for Abraham Lincoln Elementary School students who were performing “Lincoln, A Man for All Times” written by a LaRue County native, and since the quilt top was pieced together by a LaRue Countian.

“Finally, a couple of months ago, I gave it back to Nancy and asked her if she would do the quilting,” Akers said.

“I was glad to do it,” said Sprowles, a retired LaRue County elementary teacher who is still active in the school, often substitute teaching. “I love to quilt; it relaxes me and the time just seems to fly by when I’m doing it.”

Sprowles presented the finished quilt to Akers on Feb. 12, which being Lincoln’s birthday, Akers told Sprowles she couldn’t have picked a better day.

The school will have the quilt on display through the end of March with students who were in the production invited to see it and relive the memories of the musical honoring the school’s namesake and the country’s 16th president.