Twenty-one years in the United States Navy gave Greenwood’s Dewey F. Pressley opportunity to serve his country, see the world and provide for his family.

Wednesday, a small group of close friends and family surprised Dewey, 80, with a handmade quilt, in patriotic colors and with anchors and embroidery. It was crafted by his daughter’s mother-in-law, who belongs to an Anderson chapter of Quilts of Valor.

The Quilts of Valor Foundation began in 2003 with Catherine Roberts, whose son was deployed in Iraq. The foundation has a mission of covering “all service members and veterans wounded physically or psychologically with comforting and healing quilts.”

The retired Navy senior chief and former hull technician said he was most definitely surprised by the recognition and quilt.

Dewey said he had worked in small towns until joining the Navy.

“I wanted to broaden horizons and try something new,” he said. “The Navy offered that and I took it, in 1960.”

One of his children, Julie Pressley Jones, an art teacher in Greenwood School District 50, said the presentation initially encountered several hiccups, with plans being disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We were going to do this at my dad’s church, New Journey Baptist, paired with a sermon on dedication and commitment, but a lot of older people have been staying away from church,” Jones said. “We’ve been waiting since spring to figure out the best way to do this. Then, the Greenwood County Veterans Center and military museum was also closed for a while. We’ve been planning this surprise for months but it got stopped in its tracks by COVID-19. When the museum re-opened and said they had a date available, I just said, ‘We’re going to do this right now.'” 

Dewey thought his family was taking him to the Greenwood County Veterans Center only to pick up his shadow box from when he was inducted into the Center’s Hall of Heroes in 2018.

“That was when I learned about Quilts of Valor and learned there is an online form to put in for it,” Jones said. “I found out later the request for my dad’s was sent to a chapter in Anderson. Months later, my mother-in-law calls me and says that she saw my dad’s name on a list for a quilt and she got my dad’s name.”

Jean McMurtury of Abbeville and the Anderson Quilts of Valor chapter is Jones’ mother-in-law and maker of Dewey’s quilt. That chapter is one of the most active quilt-making teams in South Carolina.

“I belong to two quilting guilds, but to only one Quilts of Valor chapter,” McMurtury said. “I’ve had this quilt ready to present for four months and I put lots of special embroidery on it. There’s not another quilt like this one.”

“Use this quilt,” she told Dewey. “Wrap up in it or hang it on a wall. Put it on the bed. We do this to show our veterans we love and appreciate them. And, we thank them for their service.” 

Dewey’s quilt marks the 39th Quilt of Valor McMurtury has made and presented.

“Who knows how much longer we will have something like this to honor our service men and women?” Jones said. “How many kids today are learning how to sew a quilt? It’s the same with the machinists and metal workers in my family. We have to show people these gifts and try to keep them going.”

Jones said her upbringing as a child of a Navy man gave her the opportunity to live in different states and the island of Bahrain, an Arab state.

“Wherever dad went, mom (Marie) went,” she said. “Part of who my brothers and I are today is because we were Navy kids. I requested that someone make Mom a quilt, too. I’m going to make it my mission to make her a Navy wife quilt. I have great memories growing up, of going to camel races and riding camels — not ponies — at the school carnival…But, when my dad retired from the Navy, he came home to Greenwood, where he grew up and we moved in with his mom, until we could find a house. It was the ’80s when we moved here and we’ve been here ever since.”

Dewey enjoys playing golf with friends in McCormick and is restoring a three-wheeled Harley Davidson golf cart at his house. He and wife Marie have made quilts for others and they have made one together.

“He’s one of the strongest men I have met and there is no stop with him,” JOnes said. “He says God will stop him when God is ready.”

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-992-8934.

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