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Museum tradition raises funds, honors deceased

December 19, 2018

Laverne Brichacek acknowledges that one of her favorite hobbies is becoming a lost art form, but that’s really just another reason why it’s important for the 87-year-old Schuyler woman to continue kicking out her crocheted creations.

It’s also in an effort to benefit the Schuyler Historical Society/Colfax County Museum.

Throughout November, Brichacek made 37 crocheted snowflakes in honor of deceased community members as part of the organization’s annual Tree of Memories fundraiser. For a recommended $5 donation, families and friends of those who’ve passed can have unique, one-of-a-kind snowflakes, angels and crosses handcrafted by Brichacek and placed on display inside of the museum until the conclusion of the holiday season in January.

At that point, each memorial item, containing the names of the deceased and the person honoring them on the ornament’s back, is sent via mail to the purchaser, according to Museum Curator Judy Brezina.

“There are a variety of colors because she uses what she has on hand, and no two (snowflakes) are the same,” Brezina said, adding snowflakes make up the vast majority of requests.

The fundraising campaign, which was the brainchild of late museum curator Nadine Beran, has been an annual tradition in Colfax County for many years. Brichacek said that she has been lending her talents to the cause for more than a decade.

“Forever it seems like,” she said of her help, with a laugh. “We were still on the farm when I started, so I know it was before 2002. “They were short (on helpers) so I figured that I could make a few. Not everyone crochets now.”

Brezina echoed her sentiment, noting the number of women in the community still actively crocheting has seemingly declined. This is why Brichacek was in charge of making the vast majority of the approximately 50 crocheted items that can be viewed by walking past the front window of the museum, 309 E. 11th St.

Brezina explained this year’s Tree of Memories is not an actual 3-D piece, but rather a one-dimensional tree replica strung with wire for ornaments to be placed on at the building’s entrance area.

“It’s just easier for everybody to see and it doesn’t take up (a lot of) space,” Brezina said. “

Those interested in purchasing a crocheted ornament honoring a deceased loved one still can, the curator said, noting that the fundraiser is still underway. Those interested in participating are encouraged to contact Brezina at 302-352-3159 or Betty Brichacek at 402-615-0857 for more details.

Ornament requests are generally completed in a very timely fashion.

“It really doesn’t take her very long,” Brezina said of Brichacek’s work. “This is a talent that a lot of these ladies grew up with, and she even took up yule padding a few years back. It’s something she does to help occupy her time, and they (her creations) are all just beautiful.”

Brezina said that community members are receptive to the fundraiser and appreciate what it represents. One year, a lady purchased a dozen memorial ornaments for her family members and died shortly after. It was something the family certainly remembers, she said.

Brichacek enjoys having the opportunity to help the museum and historical society financially along with providing a token for community members to remember their loved ones by. It’s also just a fun thing for her to do when the weather outside isn’t too pleasant, she noted.

“When you can’t get out into the yard, you can’t garden and you can’t mow, you sit down and grab a hook and away you go,” Brichacek said.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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