A giant in the quilting world died back on Sept. 4. Bonnie Leman left as unassumingly as she'd lived. Yet this classy lady founded Quilter's Newsletter and a handful of other quilt-related magazines. She did so at a time when quilting was thought of as a 'little old ladies' field, and dismissed to back bedrooms.
Bonnie was inducted into the Quilter's Hall of Fame some years back; they have a thoughtful retrospective (including some great photos), including a link to a live interview.
I worked for four years (1992-96) for the company Bonnie founded, Leman Publications. During my time, Jeannie Spears, then Mary Leman Austin, were the editorial directors, and the business was sold to Rodale. But Bonnie was the person I interviewed with. Her name still appeared as author on Leman Pub. titles. And she still visited regularly. She had a quiet way of making her opinion known about the magazine pages of the current issue posted for review. (These lined one of the hallways, and everyone was expected to check and double-check them before actual publication.)
Her passion for quality and excellence -- something she passed on to the editorial people under her -- had a huge influence on my own work as a designer and editor. I was fortunate to learn the trade from writers, editors and artists who not only cared how the patterns and quilts looked on the page. (Great photos and layouts weren't encouraged - they were demanded.) These were practicing quilters, who also demanded that the patterns and info be accurate. If that meant tweaking and revising, or sewing the pattern yourself, so be it. Our magazines had a reputation for being ready to use -- pick up an issue, cut out the patterns, and sew the blocks, with no problems. Bonnie (and we) were proud of that.
No doubt Bonnie is choosing materials for her next project, or picking out a favorite book from the Heavenly Library. Find one from the Library of Alexandria for me, Bonnie...and rest in peace.
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Bonnie Hale Leman, 83, of Arvada, CO, passed away on Saturday, September 4, 2010. Born in Purdin, Missouri on September 28, 1926, to Rex and Laura Hale. She left home for college at 16 and graduated from Park College three years later. She moved to Denver in 1953 and met her husband George Leman while they were both pursuing master's degrees at the University of Denver. She was a mother, teacher and freelance writer until she found her calling in the publishing business, when, in 1969, she founded Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. Through her magazine she helped revive and foster an appreciation of quilts as a great American art form that continues to this day. Bonnie grew her magazine readership to more than 200,000 subscribers in over 100 countries, as well as writing and publishing numerous books and other publications on quiltmaking. She travelled much of the world in the course of her career, made hundreds of friends, and contributed to the growth of the quiltmaking art in many countries. She retired in 1995 to enjoy her children and grandchildren. Preceded in death by her husband George Leman (1986), she is survived by her daughters Megan O'Gorman (John O'Gorman), Mary Leman Austin (Milton Austin), Emilie Leman, Georgianne Holland (Ted Holland), David Leman, Andrew Leman (Glenn Alfonso), and Matthew Leman (Tara Williams Leman). Her cherished grandchildren include Jerome and Pauline DeFelice; Jessica, Laura, and Eric Bender; and Avery Leman. Also survived by her beloved brother Roy Hale and family of San Francisco; and the Jack and Betty Most family of Carlsbad, New Mexico. A Rosary will be said Monday, September 13, 7:00 p.m., Mt. Olivet, 12801 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge, CO 80033, 303-424-7785. Funeral mass will take place Tuesday, September 14, 10:00 a.m., Sts. Peter and Paul Church, 3920 Pierce Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-4942, (303) 424-0402. Reception information will be available at the funeral service.