Winter is malevolent in its reluctance to release its grip on the plains of North Dakota. So it was in March of 1922 when Peter first opened his eyes to that harsh world. Born to Michael and Marianna (a derivative of Mary), immigrant Germans from Russia, he was the youngest of their 6 surviving children.


A quilt, perhaps “The Quilt”, was the first barrier that swaddled and separated him from his mother’s warmth. Stitched from the rags and tatters of worn dresses, shirts, dungarees… it was an artifact of necessity and love, recycling before the term had been coined. Austerity and poverty were the drivers by which cow chips were “harvested” to heat their homes; cellars stored root vegetables, home canned goods, blood sausage, hams, and crocks of fermenting kraut to see a family through the isolation of life stealing blizzards; and a worker at the local dairy smoked his cigars to the point of burning his lips only to then knock off the ash and chew the remaining stub. He would then dry the mash of used tobacco, grind it between his fingers and roll the dust into a cigarette. “Waste not” was a way of life, a mantra that took many forms. Renewal was born of necessity and not ecology. Quilts breathed new life into old cloth and were an expression of a woman’s art and her love.

As a young student in the one-room schoolhouse Peter learned to speak English. He was also inspired to become a teacher. His father believed any education beyond the 8th grade merely took a man needlessly from the toils that were important for survival.


Thus, a divide formed between father and son. Marianna encouraged Peter and shared his dream that he might find a better life beyond the prairie. Peter’s passion for education was equaled only by his passion for running. Near daily his flaming red hair could be seen streaking across the horizon.


Often he would compete with an equally fleet-of-foot young Sioux native from the nearby Fort Totten/Spirit Lake Reservation. Some days “Red” would win, and on other days it was the onyx haired youth who would prevail. Their friendly rivalry was fired by genetics that spanned millennia and continents. Local events featured them, and as they grew older they met in State competitions. Each would find their remarkable speed to be the key to higher education.

Peter graduated from high school as Salutatorian in a class of two. He was awarded an athletic scholarship to Bemidji State University where he captained the track and football teams. Years later he would be inducted into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame. There was little that Marianna could give him as he left home for college; Some money that she had secreted from her husband over the years (and upon discovery it earned her a beating at his hands), and The Quilt.

The Quilt remained among Peter’s possessions throughout college, the Second World War, graduate school, and his marriage to Pauline. In 1952 they brought their first child, another Peter, home. The Quilt was there.


The younger Peter was thoughtful and sensitive in a way that the older one did not understand. “You think/worry/feel too much…” was an often spoken refrain from father to son. In the son’s late adolescence the elder occasionally introduced the younger as, “a friend of the family”, or as the Prodigal Son. It was not a withholding of love, just an acknowledgement of frustration and the divide.

Young Peter left for college not in pursuit of any passion for higher education, but as an escape from the conflict with the elder. Pauline had little to offer that would mend the divide, but in 1970 she sent her oldest son off to college with The Quilt.

The Quilt was older than either Pauline or her husband. It had weathered at least 50 winters and showed in its fibers the strain of the years. Marianna had died in 1952, a few months after young Peter’s birth. It fell to Pauline’s mother, Labibe (her name is an Arabic derivative of Mary), who was an immigrant from Lebanon, to deploy her skills to mend the failing Quilt. She stitched what she could, but ultimately chose to encase it in flannel. The Quilt served young Peter throughout college and accompanied him in 1974 on the road to his new home in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Quilt was there for his marriage to Christine, the birth of yet another Peter, and the births of daughters Renee and Alexis. At one time or another it embraced each member of the family. Marianna’s hand hovered lovingly, and silently, over the family.

By the time that the elder Peter and Pauline came to celebrate 40 years of marriage The Quilt had become little more than a large rag. Labibe’s felt casing had itself become threadbare and riddled with holes. Shreds and pieces of The Quilt could be found wherever it had lain. Christine removed the covering and found one salvageable section that measured about 4 square feet. She hand stitched what she could to restore the piece and make it suitable as a framed artifact, a gift to Peter and Pauline on their wedding anniversary.

Peter passed from this life in 2009. The framed remnant of The Quilt still adorns a wall in Pauline’s home. It displays Christine’s handwritten attribution to Marianna Volk Schloss, its creator.

The years that followed brought adulthood to Peter and Christine’s children. They in turn brought grandchildren into Peter and Christine’s life, one of which is also named Peter. Christine has made a quilt for each of the grandchildren… gifts given at a birthday or at Christmas.


Recently she finished work on a quilt that now graces our bed. It is a stunning piece that caused me to marvel and then ask, “How many stitches does it take to make a quilt?” “Two hundred thousand… maybe more” she replied.


Authors and poets such as Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and Barbara DeAngelis have written that love is invisible… that it cannot be seen or measured. I imagine that they were never given a quilt.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. The earliest Peter Schloss that I have knowledge of was born in 1793 in Jockgrim, Germany. His grandson, my great-grandfather, was Peter Schloss. He was born near Odessa, Russia/Ukraine in 1857. He and his family are pictured below.

18 thoughts on “The Quilt. 1922 – 2019

  1. Those treasures seem lost to the current generation. I have a couple quilts, tucked away in boxes, constructed during the Depression when every scrap was used; they cradled us many cold winters. My grandparents raised sheep. Grandma taught us to card the shorn and cleansed wool, which she spun on the spinning wheel into yarn, knit socks for Grandpa’s logging boots, and used other rolls (the form the carded wool would take as it was rolled off the cards) for quilt batting. I was gifted grandma’s spinning wheel, which was left in Wyoming years ago with the intent to retrieve. My ex remarried and it was sold at auction before I had an opportunity to do that, which i am saddened by!

  2. Wow…. as a quilter (though I cheat and use a machine) that story touched my heart. With every snip and stitch you hope that the love and care are felt by the recipient. Your story gives me such hope that is true xoxo

  3. I remember the beautiful blue one she made. We have the same sort of tradition with a twist. My Dad would buy used parachutes. Every stitch must be removed and the pieces laid out and stitched together to make a flat piece. Then it’s covered in flannel. “Parachute quilts” are incredibly soft, light, and warm. One of my first and always favorite blankets. My parents sent each of their grandkids off to college with a new parachute quilt and a new afghan which my Mom had crocheted. Another blanket which I used for North Dakota winters was made with a core of old wool Army quilts covered in flannel. It’s since been recovered with fresh flannel and is my daughter’s. Katie and I both crochet afghans for family & friends. I do have plans to try piecing a quilt someday. I can assure Liz that as both the recipient & maker of these homemade hugs, the love is felt.

  4. Phyllis Kasper says:

    I have read more than a few books on our pilgrims who homesteaded in the Dakotas who lived such unbelievable lives of hardship but survived and accomplished so much and to read this about the family of a special friend is such a pleasure! The latest book I really enjoyed is The Pioneers by David McCullough.

  5. Pauline Schloss says:

    Beautifully written as I read with tears. How wise of you Peter to envelop such memories. My friend Joan, went downstairs to photograph the framed the quilt but it is still in a small trunk in the garage with other photos packed when I moved.

  6. I love your memories about of the quilt. I think the READERS! DIGEST would gladly share your beautiful sentiments
    Adele PINNOW.

  7. Pete
    I’m jealous. Your attention to detail and your story telling ability make for a beautiful piece. I hope someday I can write a story with the same depth of passion and love.

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