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A Birthday Surprise
Mar 2, 2012
A part of my duties at South Dakota Magazine involves sifting through story ideas from readers and freelance writers. We receive so many great ideas that we often don’t have room for them all. But this is a special one I wanted to share. Janet Holland of De Smet contacted us about a surprise birthday gift she received in December. Donna Palmlund of the De Smet News recently wrote about the gift. The following is gleaned from Palmlund’s article.
Janet and Gordie Holland, married 52 years, were at the United Church of Christ’s annual potato feed and bazaar in November 2010 when a quilt being raffled caught Janet’s eye.
“I fell in love with it and told Gordie I was going to buy six tickets,” Janet said. Janet, a quilter herself, said she really didn’t need it. She didn’t expect to win, but thought the quilt was beautiful.
Pam Spader won the raffle and Janet recalled teasing Spader about winning her quilt. But the quilt didn’t match any of Spader’s décor and she put it up for sale on a household auction last August.
Spader’s sister, Brittani Wilkinson, told Gordie that the quilt his wife liked was being sold. He bought it and told Wilkinson he was going to give it to Janet for her birthday in December. Janet saw the quilt on the sale earlier in the day and went back to buy it but, of course, it was gone. “My sisters and I fibbed. We told her someone we didn’t know already bought it,” Spader said.
But Gordie died unexpectantly in September. After his death, Spader told Gordie's daughter, Bonnie Menzel, about the quilt. Finding it became a scavenger hunt for Menzel and her three brothers. They finally found it on a shelf in Holland’s home office. Holland had been a building contractor, and had secured the quilt in a box taped shut with heavy Tyvek tape.
The four siblings decided to wait until their mother’s birthday in December to give her the special gift left by her husband. One of the son’s took the box to his pickup to keep it hidden, but realized his mother might notice it was missing and returned it to its original location.
“I tried not to tell anybody in town [about the quilt],” Menzel said. “I didn’t want it to accidentally slip.”
Janet said she wondered about the contents of the box. “I’d noticed it on the shelf a few times,” she said. “Gordie had been cleaning out cupboards and going through old checks and receipts so I just assumed that was what was in there,” Janet said. “The day of my birthday party, I was planning to look in that box to see what was in there but never got around to it,” she said.
The family took Janet out for a birthday supper at the Carthage Cabaret. “Bonnie handed me this box and said, ‘This is a birthday present from dad,’ and she was crying,” Janet said. “When I opened it, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”
Janet was shocked. She said her husband never bought gifts ahead of time.
Thank you to Janet, Donna and the De Smet News for sharing this heartwarming story!