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Weekses fill their days with laughter, love and service

WORTHINGTON -- If the couple that stitches together stays together, then Dennis and Marie Weeks have a seamless bond that is bound to endure. With his-and-hers sewing machines at the ready in their quilting room, this energetic 78-year-old couple...

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A pile of rolled quilts await delivery to Lutheran world relief at the home of Marie and Dennis Weeks. The couple made and donated 250 similar quilts in 2016 and are on track for the same in 2017. (Jane Turpin Moore/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - If the couple that stitches together stays together, then Dennis and Marie Weeks have a seamless bond that is bound to endure.

 

With his-and-hers sewing machines at the ready in their quilting room, this energetic 78-year-old couple stays busy from their first cups of morning coffee until twilight, sharing plenty of laughter and a mutual commitment to serving others.

 

“Marie is important; I’m not,” quipped Dennis.

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“We do enjoy each other a lot,” said Marie. “And if you can’t laugh, don’t even bother getting up.”

 

Last year, the enterprising duo crafted 250 quilts in their basement workroom, and with 165 already done as of Aug. 1, they’re well on their way to matching that total in 2017.

 

“We gave about 20 of them to Nobles County Community Christmas Baskets, but most of them are shared through Lutheran World Relief,” explained Marie.

 

Because of tracking slips, the pair knows their quilts have been distributed in Thailand and Cambodia, among other places.

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“The most recent 85 quilts went to Syrian refugees,” said Dennis. “We always find out where they go.”

 

Quilt-making is not their only endeavor, however; via an effort at their home church (American Lutheran), Marie has also been involved over the past three years in sewing 450 string backpacks that are destined to be filled with school supplies for underserved students in Third World countries.

 

“The congregation as a whole has contributed to them, and Stacy Bickett [the church’s youth director] had the youth doing them at first,” said Marie.

 

“Last year, a big portion of them went to kids in Pakistan and Honduras,” added Dennis.

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With each backpack containing four notebooks, a blunt scissors, a box of crayons, five pencils, five ballpoint pens, an eraser, a simple pencil sharpener and a ruler, the supplies are an incredible gift for students who cannot afford even the most basic items to aid their studies. It’s hoped they provide necessary tools to encourage and support the learning process.

 

“Often the backpacks go to girls,” said Marie. “We found out recently that if you help educate a girl, you’re really educating 10 more people because the girls will usually go home and teach what they’ve learned to other family members, and eventually to their own children.

 

“It’s a good investment.”

 

Added Dennis, “In so many Third World countries, girls end up spending their days walking to and from water sources and just carrying water.

 

“When they get a chance to attend school, it’s important to help them where we can.”

 

Additionally, Marie and Dennis regularly craft bandages for Global Health Ministries (“We wind up white sheets, cut them in strips and Dennis made a simple machine to roll them up,” explained Marie) that are sometimes the only bandages medical workers (such as those in Doctors Without Borders) may have at their disposal.

“And we pack baby care kits for parents of newborns, which include 36-inch squares of muslin,” said Marie. “Some of those go to Lutheran World Relief and some to Global Health Ministries.

 

“We know where all the good thrift stores are,” she laughed. “That’s not something we often discuss with most of our friends.”

 

After attending a Silver Sneakers fitness or yoga class at the Worthington Area YMCA on most weekday mornings (Dennis is a current YMCA board member, as well), the couple tends to spend their afternoons sewing, stitching and stuffing batting.

 

Sometimes they can be found at their church, where they are stewardship committee members who alternate months on the offering “counting team.”

 

“And we deliver Meals on Wheels when we can,” said Dennis. He also spent a few years as coordinator of Worthington’s Manna Food Pantry after retiring.

 

Marie and Dennis have been a twosome from the time Dennis’ family, formerly of Hanley Falls, moved to Ruthton to operate a restaurant when Dennis was a high school junior.

 

There he met Marie, whose father was the local doctor.

 

“We graduated from Ruthton High School in 1957 and got married in 1960,” said Dennis.

 

At age 21?

 

“I was 21, but Dennis was still 20; he was a baby,” teased Marie. “He still is.”

 

“We get along pretty well, but when I said ‘for better or for worse,’ I had no idea how ‘worse’ it would get,” he joked.

 

They initially tried to go their separate ways - Marie completed a year of college at St. Olaf in Northfield, while Dennis went to Aberdeen - but they both graduated from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D.

 

As Dennis taught high school mathematics in George, Iowa, Marie was initially focused on the home front and their six children. She later taught preschool and kindergarten for 20 years.

 

After a stint in the insurance industry, Dennis accepted a position as a math and physics instructor at Minnesota West Community and Technical College (then Worthington Community College) in 1996, ultimately retiring from that position in 2007 but continuing as an adjunct instructor through 2012.

 

With 19 grandchildren ranging in age from 13 to 35 (four of whom will be high school seniors this year, and another four will be eighth-graders), hopping about to sporting and other school activities also keeps the couple on the go.

 

One 21-year-old grandson, Daniel, lives near Dubuque, Iowa, and is autistic. Nevertheless, he makes fire starters (for campfires, fireplaces, wood stoves or grills) out of reclaimed materials. Naturally, his inventive grandparents have a hand in collecting items for his work.

 

“They’re called JT Firestarters, and they’re sold at the Daily Apple in Worthington,” announced Marie, saying they gladly accept candle stubs and cardboard egg cartons to support Daniel’s efforts.

 

Whether quilting, counting, collecting or stitching, spending so much of their time in service is a no-brainer for this industrious pair.

 

“God’s been very good to us, and we aren’t put on this earth to sit; we’re supposed to do something,” reflected Dennis. “Our God is a giving God, and if we don’t give, we’re not doing what we should.

 

“It’s God’s work and our hands - that’s pretty much it.”

 

That shared philosophy was only reinforced when Marie’s younger sister, a volunteering dynamo named Mary Ann, died last year.

 

“A few years ago she was receiving a community volunteer award at a banquet, and others who’d gone up before her delivered long speeches,” related Marie.

 

“When Mary Ann was introduced, she stood up and said only, ‘If you see something that has to be done, do it.’ Then she sat down.”

 

Mary Ann’s straightforward statement ably sums up the Weekses’ attitude toward life.

 

“Well,” smiled Marie, “I’m not going to start sitting around watching cowboy movies.”

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