Frazee, Minn. - As John Sailer and his siblings were planning a surprise 50th anniversary party for his parents, Joe and Jean Sailer of Frazee, he started to think about what they are each known for.

"My dad is the former coach for Frazee's baseball team; he took them to state in 1999," John said in a phone call. This is his father's legacy.

"(My mom), her legacy is quilts," John said. ""She basically makes a quilt if it's your 10th birthday, anniversary, newborns, graduations, that sort of thing. She selflessly has made quilts ... nobody pays hers, they thank her and that part of her goes with them."

Joe and Jean, standing at the left, with the rest of their family beside some of Jean's quilts. (Dr Drone Aerial Images)
Joe and Jean, standing at the left, with the rest of their family beside some of Jean's quilts. (Dr Drone Aerial Images)

There are a lot of Jean's quilts out there, as she and Joe both have multiple siblings with kids of their own. The pair have three other children aside from John, too, and 16 grandchildren. Jean has also donated some quilts to churches.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

"It just kind of came to me one night; what if we took all the quilts, laid them down next to each other, and the quilts become one giant quilt," John said. "I thought, 'oh my gosh that would be perfect.'"

So that's exactly what they did. For months, family members sent the quilts across the states to John's sister, Nicky (Sailer) Courneya, and their aunt. John couldn't collect them as he lives in Ohio.

"It's a tough thing to do when you have all these quilts from all over the states to bring to Frazee, Minnesota. They're really heavy," John said.

As family members came to Joe and Jean's house, they continued to bring more quilts with them. On Tuesday July 2, they took the quilts from everywhere they were hidden, and brought them to the Frazee baseball field.

"That particular day was rather unusual because ... we were told not to plan anything and we didn't know what to expect," Jean said in a phone interview.

John said that they had changed the plan at the last minute: they originally wanted to lay them out a different day, but couldn't because of the weather, and they changed the location. At first, they were thinking that they would lay them all out on the Frazee football field and take a picture of it from the watertower.

"The baseball field included dad's baseball side as well," John said. "The picture was supposed to be a surprise. But then at the last minute I thought, 'you know, I wouldn't want to get just a picture. I would like to be part of it or see it. Then you have the picture to remember what you actually saw.'"

So, they changed plans and laid everything out for both of the pictures that Dr. Drone would take, and for their parents to see. As they laid quilts down, they left spaces of grass in between each quilt.

"It gave it that quilt feeling ... something that ties it together, and that green kind of tied it together," John said.

It wasn't only quilts on the field, as Jean has made table runners, napkins, pot holders, "little knicky-knacky kind of things." Those were set in the green spaces, which John thought looked kind of like the buttons that are on quilts. Nicky-nacky objects included, there was almost 150 different quilts there. John believed that this was just about half of the total amount.

"They gave us a scavenger hunt ... and got us over to the Varsity baseball field in Frazee," Jean said.

When Joe and Jean arrived, they weren't quite sure what to think. They saw a few people scrambling around, running into the dugout.

"As we're driving through it was just kind of an 'huh, what's out in the outfield?'" Jean said. So we parked the car, and were walking down and they all popped out of the dugout. It was a surprise."

John thought they had about 25 people there, and Nicky shared that all the family members except for two made it; the Sailers' anniversary was actually in April, but July was chosen for the party to get as many family members there as possible.

"My mom was saying that she was like 'don't cry, don't cry, you're not bleeding.' I think she got really emotional and pretty sentimental," John said.

That was the goal of sharing the quilts; to recognize his mom and what she has done for their family.

"We're a very sports-oriented family and mom was always at the stands at the games or washing the jerseys, or making dinner," John said.

Jean said that quilt-making is a family thing. Her mother, her grandma, great-grandma; they all have made quilts.

John explained that his mom didn't get a lot of recognition for all she did when they were kids, and he wanted to shine a light on her at this celebration.

"She was kind of the main focus," he said. "For her, this is really a special thing, she finally got credit for the things she did."

Joe and Jean received a lot of family recognition that week, as it was the last time their family would be coming to their lake house. Jean said that it has been hard, but the family made the best out of it.

"It wasn't just one party, it was a bunch of them," she said. "They just made everyday trying to have something that was special. It was just one great entire time."