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Chemo quilts made with love & devotion
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Doctors Hospital of Manteca breast imaging RN Debbie Aventi displays one of the countless “Chemo Quilts” made by her mother Pat Autry. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Two women – mother and daughter – are bonded in their passion to go the extra mile for cancer patients having to go through biopsies and chemo therapy treatments.

Debbie Aventi is the registered nurse at Doctors Hospital of Manteca is known for warmly holding her patients’ hands as they go through biopsies to search out cancerous growths in their breasts.

Her mother, Pat Autry, has a drive in her soul to make her colorful “chemo quilts” that she hopes are comforting her daughter’s many patients at the hospital.  She has made over 150 quilts since her retirement eight years ago when she began attending quilting classes at the Women’s Resource Center in Sonora.   She knows the value of having someone care as she too is a breast cancer survivor.

“I wish I could do one for every patient she has, but it is beyond me,” she said.   “The thank yous are wonderful and some of them make me cry.”

The word of her work has gotten around and she has received many donations of fabric that are sent home though her daughter – fabric that will be used for more quilts in the future.

She chuckled when she told of others who have received her quilts including her son Jim and her grandchildren.   Autry said she loves to sew and turns out pillow cases and place mats as well.

Her obsession with sewing began years ago on an old treadle machine when she was only 10 years old.  As the youngest of nine children, she said there was no one left at home to play with after school – her siblings were all grown.

She glows as she talks about the Manteca area residents she has touched at Doctors Hospital through her daughter Debbie, especially when she sees them walk into the hospital when she’s there snuggled in the warmth of one of her quilts.

“I just gave one away this morning to a lady who was going home to Tracy,” she said.  “It’s amazing how they respond to your love.  That’s what quilting has meant to me with so much crazy stuff going on in this world.”

“One of the things I learned in getting involved in quilting classes: they (quilters) care and they share,” she added.    Those quilting classes draw some 60 people every week and Autry tries to never miss a session.  She  made reference to a woman she has known for years – an 89-year-old quilter Bettie Daskin  – as someone who really cares about other people in her daily life.  Beaming, the retired Autry said, “I want to be just like her when I grow up.”

She said Daskin continues to piece quilt tops of her own and passes them on to Autry to finish up for her as a completed project.

Pat Autry is a former nursing home administrator – a position she held for 25 years.  After her retirement from that position, she continued to work in administration.

She finished her thirty-sixth quilt for her nurse daughter at Christmas time and she currently has six more on the table.  Her own mother also taught quilting classes in past years.

The teacher of her quilting classes that meet on Thursday 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. in a 12 week semester is Lisa Morales.  Classes she has been attending for five years.  

“She’s full of fun,” Autry interjected. “This lady make quilts for cancer patients, too,” she noted.  Morales also makes crochet caps for women who have gone through chemo therapy.

Debbie Aventi’s dad is also a talented and giving person in his retirement, having worked in the Silicon Valley and as a reserve sheriff’s deputy.  Howard Autry – fifth cousin to the famed western star Gene Autry – is busy in his home wood shop making desks, tables, cabinets, chairs and wine racks.