Her Voice: Memory bears ‘something to hold on to’
Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LIDGERWOOD, N.D. – After her husband died more than two years ago, Loraine Trinka’s daughter suggested her mom make memory bears out of his shirts.
At first, Trinka said, she refused.
“I was not interested,” she said. “I could not touch those shirts for over a year.”
But eventually she did, starting with Harley’s favorite shirt, a shirt Trinka said he wore the most to his chemotherapy treatments. Then she added one of Harley’s neckties.
“It turned out so cute,” the 88-year-old Lidgerwood woman said. “He still rides with me in the front seat.”
In addition to the bear that rides in the front passenger seat of Trinka’s car, she also has three others. Making the bears, she said, helped in her grieving process.
“It just brought a lot of joy,” she said. “It was just a peaceful thing for me to do.”
Trinka has since made more than 80 memory bears. She made more than 20 from her husband’s shirts for her three children, six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
“Those shirts meant something to me,” she said. “I went one after the other.”
Trinka and her husband were married almost 67 years, she said. She was teaching at a township school when she was 17 years old and met Harley during a social outing in Lidgerwood.
“We’ve been going steady ever since the second time I saw him,” she said.
They became engaged at the end of her second year of teaching and married in the fall. When Harley joined the service, Trinka worked for the Veteran’s Administration in Washington, D.C., for about a year until they returned home. They spent most of their lives farming near Lidgerwood.
Harley was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and died in 2012.
“He was such a fighter with his cancer,” Trinka said.
Trinka has made dolls and clothes over the years, but said she never thought about making stuffed bears until her daughter suggested it.
Trinka didn’t have home economics in school, she said, but learned to sew from her mother. She sewed curtains, diapers and kids’ clothes, eventually making confirmation, bridesmaid and flower-girl dresses. She once took a three-month course to learn to sew collars and lapels.
The bears, she said, are a lot of work. She stuffs them by hand, which she said is the most time-consuming part of the process, and she said the sewing gets to be a challenge for her 1953 sewing machine. But it’s also a labor of love and gives people who have lost someone something to hold on to.
She makes 18-inch and 24-inch bears. Each bear takes a few hours to complete.
Once word spread about what Trinka was doing, others started asking her to make memory bears from their loved ones’ clothing too.
“It gives me a wonderful feeling,” she said. “It brings me so much joy.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526