During the IndyCar event at the Chicagoland Speedway in August 2009, Janet befriended a lady in the Media Center. Come to find out, that lady was Jeanetta Holder, "The Quilt Lady." Jeanetta has been presenting the winner of the Indianapolis 500 a handmade quilt since 1976, with Johnny Rutherford as the winner. She has been attending the Indianapolis 500 since 1950. Not only has she presented the Indy 500 winner a quilt, but others as well, (such as Brickyard 400 winners Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt). Making racing quilts is not her only connection to racing. As a young woman, Jeanetta also was an amateur racecar driver. She was one of the first lady racers at the Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Ky. She has always had a penchant for racing. Even as a little girl, she would make her own homemade racecar toys and race them! At 82, she still is as active as ever -- loading up her scooter, jumping in her minivan, and driving anywhere she wants to go.
At the conclusion of the 2009 IndyCar race, Jeanetta asked me to take a photo of the Chicagoland Speedway logo that was on the wall behind the Media Center desk. At that time, I did not know why she wanted that particular image.
Many months later, we learned that Jeanetta created a quilt for Chicagoland Speedway in honor of its 10th season. The speedway's official 10-year anniversary would be celebrated the following year. Jeanetta presented the quilt to then track president Craig Rust during the 2010 IndyCar pre-race ceremonies. This was the first quilt created for an individual track.
In 2012, Jeanetta started asking Janet and I to come down to the Indianapolis 500. Due to family commitments, we were not able to make that happen...until now. Jeanetta was gracious enough to invite us to stay with her throughout the weekend of the Indianapolis 500. Upon our arrival, Jeanetta was working on the winner's quilt.
In addition to this year's winner's quilt, Jeanetta created a quilt for Jim Nabors, who was ending his career of singing "Back Home Again in Indiana." The Speedway arranged for Jeanetta to have a private meeting and presentation with Jim. Upon seeing her, Jim stated, "There she is!" When he learned of her upcoming birthday, Jim led the group in singing Happy Birthday to her. As we exited the event, we were met by Miss Hurst herself, Linda Vaughn!
Prior to the race, Jeannetta prepared the quilt, minus the winner's autograph. At the conclusion of the race, she presented the quilt to the winner in Victory Circle (this year accompanied by Janet), obtained the winner's autograph and then brought the quilt home to attach the autograph.
This year, after exiting Victory Lane, Jeanetta was met by Beccy Hunter-Reay, wife of race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. She wanted to personally thank Jeanetta for the beautiful quilt.
Later that day, Jeanetta went about the task of affixing the winner's autograph (Ryan Hunter-Reay) to the quilt.
On Monday morning after the 500, the Speedway hosted the winner's photoshoot. The car was pulled onto the racetrack under the starter's stand and the driver posed with family, friends, teammates and sponsors. It is here that Jeanetta made the final presentation of the quilt.
This was a memorable weekend that Janet and I will never forget! First, I want to thank Jeanetta for inviting us into her world. She is a special lady, and we love her! Second, I want to thank Tim Sullivan, the Hulman-George family, and all the folks involved with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for allowing us access to be able to tell this story. And finally, thank you to the Henry Ford Museum for background information.
To see more information about Jeanetta and her quilt's induction to the Henry Ford Museum Hall of Fame please click here.