During most of my childhood, Raymond was a name, but I didn't know who he was, though I knew he was someone my dad cared about. Every year my parents sent a Christmas package to Raymond. The gifts in the package were chosen with care and included shirts, underwear and socks, gloves, and Raymond's favorite candy. My parents wanted Raymond to have a happy Christmas.
Then one summer day when I was perhaps 8 or 9, we traveled to visit Raymond who, I later learned, lived in the Pennsylvania State School for the Feeble-Minded. We parked at the side of the building and somehow my father sent word that we were there to see Raymond. We waited a few minutes and then an older man, probably older than my father, came out. He was not very tall and had an unusual gait. He seemed different, more child-like than man-like. He recognized my father and they greeted each other. Then he took my hand and started to walk away. I hesitated, feeling a little shy and wondering if I should go with this stranger. My parents gave me a nod of encouragement and we all walked with him. My memory ends there. I don't know where we went or what we did. (Strange how memories often don't provide all the details.)
After we left, my father told us a little more about Raymond and explained that he had an amazing and unusual ability. Raymond's responsibility at the farm was the chickens. Dad said that when trying to gather chickens, most folks cause them to scatter. Dad had watched Raymond with chickens before: he spread his arms wide and the chickens gathered in toward him and then went wherever he directed them. Dad said we'd never see anything like it again, except with Raymond. He explained that Raymond was a very gentle person, something I think I sensed while we were together that day. The only other thing Dad said about him was that something had happened to his family and he lived with Maw and Pap Doyle, Dad's grandparents, for a while.
In my family history research, I learned that when I met him Raymond was living at the State School for the Feeble-Minded in Polk, Pennsylvania. I'm still trying to learn the rest of Raymond's story. But you can see why Raymond would come to mind when The 70273 Project crossed my path a few months ago. How could I not think of Raymond knowing that the Nazis killed at least 70,273 infants, children, and adults because they were physically or mentally disabled. Had he lived in Germany during Hitler's reign, he would likely have been put to death, too.
The 70,273 Project commemorates those special individuals who were killed in Germany between January 1940 and August 1941, by creating quilt blocks with two red Xs on them. The white background represents the papers of an individual's medical file. The red Xs represent the two doctors' marks written on a person'sform giving the approval for the person to be killed. (You must know that about 300,000 physically or mentally disabled individuals were killed by the Nazis.)
I've made some blocks for Raymond. And for my friend's daughter, Mary. And another friend's sister, Drusy. They were able to live long, full lives, and I'm grateful for that.
If you'd like to participate in this project, and want info about block sizes, etc., you can find it here. You can read an overview of the project here. The provenance for to send in with your blocks is here. Many thanks to Jeanne Hewell-Chambers for inviting us to participate.
Oh, and if you want to read more about Raymond and his story, you can at these posts: here, here, and here.
I hope I can get these off in the mail on Monday.