By Ed Jacques, LEJ Editor
Judy Lauria became a pretty good seamstress out of necessity while raising her seven children in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Most people would say that having four of her boys become police officers in Michigan would be a pretty significant contribution on her part to law enforcement in the state. But, in her own very discreet way, Judy has made one of the most unique and long lasting contributions to police officers in Michigan and across the country. Her gift provides comfort to the family members of police officers killed in the line of duty. It all started in 2004 when Detroit Police Officers Matthew Bowens and Jennifer Fettig were ambushed and killed in their squad car. Judy had previously donated a hand-sewn quilt to assist a Police Officers Legal De- fense Fund and was compelled to sew a custom quilt for the Bowens and Fettig families. Judy took on this “labor of love” because as she says “I wanted all of those family members to know that there were many people out there whom they had never met that felt some of their pain and cared deeply about their family.” Judy Lauria has donated her time, energy and money to every other slain Michigan police officers’ family since then, in the form of a customized quilt. In fact, one year Judy sewed a smaller version of her quilts for every officer killed in the line of duty throughout the entire Unites States! She estimates that she’s crafted nearly 650 since 2004. Although Judy could not keep up the pace of her special gift across the country, she has never forgotten Michigan police officers. She has sewn “brotherhood quilts” for special staff and command schools and other law enforcement agencies. She has honored special re- quest for additional quilts for the children of police of- ficers and also fulfilled retroactive request from relatives of police officers killed prior to 2004. The quilts are 6 ft. by 5 ft. and consist of a series of templates or sections of cotton quilted materials sewn together by hand. Judy utilizes prominent department colors in the background and in the stitching of the quilt and customizes her quilt to unique characteristics of the fallen officer. She will incorporate all the different departments or units a police officer belonged to and add some elements such as favorite sport teams, musical instruments, badge number, department patch, etc. All quilts also include the date of the officers’ end of watch. In some cases Judy has used old uniform shirts and pants to make up her templates. “One family wanted to use as much of their loved ones uniform in the production and when I told them I was running short, they dug deep in their clothes hamper to pull out an old shirt that I could use to finish,” said Judy. “When patches weren’t available I would find the art work and sew them myself.” “The most difficult part of the process is the layout and color coor- dinating the individual templates to make the quilts blend,” added Judy. The entire process takes between twenty-five (25) and thirty (30) hours per quilt and to this day Judy still worries that she may have made a spell- ing mistake. Judy is also very proud that her efforts have led oth- ers across the country to “pay it forward” in their own special way to honor the lives of slain police officers. “People are planting trees, making photo album covers and other very personal items that the families cherish,” said Judy “The families are very touched by those ges- tures and I know that the folks that put their heart and soul into their projects are also very fulfilled.” Judy has vowed to continue her mission in Michigan with the hope that her work load lessens every year. She has never charged a fee and her out of pocket expenses alone total tens of thousands of dollars fulfilling her spe- cial calling. Judy has never publicized her work, in fact she is almost secretive about her gift. That’s what makes it so special.ï± Editor’s Note: Judy Lauria will be honored at the POAM convention in 2011 with a special presentation.