By John Rice
Sandy Byrnes has long been part of the village's social fabric. She has been a positive presence at the schools, the Mohr Community Center and the Park District of Forest Park. But Byrnes really stitched herself in when she recently fulfilled a decades-long dream, by completing a quilt incorporating all the commemorative shirts from the No-Gloves Tournament.
Byrnes spent years collecting shirts from the park district, the manufacturer and her husband, Park Commissioner Joe Byrnes. She thought it only fitting that the quilt be ready for the tournament's 50th anniversary.
Byrnes started the sewing project in March. She cut the shirts, pressed them and sewed a strip bordering each shirt. She then completed the backing and filled the quilt with batting. No, not that kind of batting. There are 42 shirts on the front of the quilt and 14 on the back, with a few duplicates. She mixed shirt fronts with the backs of shirts listing tournament champions.
Using a second floor room at the park administration building, Byrnes needed two tables to lay out the quilt. She spent over 45 hours sewing it. Not that she's complaining. On the contrary, she said the work was very soothing.
She is raffling off the quilt, $10 per ticket, to raise money for the park district and is also completing a second quilt, which she plans to display at the Roos Recreation Center.
Byrnes has been a booster of the park district, ever since she moved to Forest Park 46 years ago. She has been a fixture at the tournament since its inception in 1969. Over the years, she has volunteered to cook, pour beer and sell tickets, while Joe is in his 28th year of grilling for the fans.
Working the tournament isn't Sandy's only contribution to the park district. "I teach baking and cooking to kids," she said. "I teach cake decorating and art classes." And she also teaches sewing to adults, the classes attracting men as well as women.
Byrnes learned her craft from her grandmother. Her mother, who was blind, crocheted afghans. She never cared much for crocheting. Quilting became her passion. She belongs to the Salt Creek Quilters Guild and the Itasca Quilters Guild. She also volunteers at the 19th Century Club Needle Arts in Oak Park.
"We make things for charity," Byrnes explained, "We make bibs and receiving blankets for Fisher House, Ronald McDonald House and Shriners Hospital."
This isn't the only volunteer work Byrnes does. She is the longtime president of the Forest Park Seniors /Club at the Community Center. "I work there every Tuesday, from 9 to 1," she said, organizing activities and arranging parties.
Giving her time to the people of Forest Park is second nature to Byrnes and she has even bigger plans for the future. "I have a lifelong dream of making quilts and blankets for all of my friends," she said. Her No-Gloves quilts are already a gift for everyone who appreciates the park district and 16-inch softball's premier event.