When a friend in New Sarpy recently died, Dawn Jones went to work embroidering handkerchiefs bearing his nickname, “Mud Duck,” with a hat and a sportsman fleur-de-lis.
The keepsakes number in the thousands now as the New Sarpy resident sends hankys, also personalized, in memory of anyone who has lost a loved one.
“It’s therapeutic for me because I like doing something to help,” Jones said. “They’re inexpensive so it’s really just my labor and time. It’s a keepsake, not big and bulky.”
Kim Ann Boudreaux Sellars recalls vividly how she got 12 handkerchiefs for her family when her father died and exactly how receiving them made her feel.
“It touched our family’s lives, and for her to bring us that before the wake made us feel so good,” Sellars said. “It helps the grieving process and it’s so thoughtful of her because she does it from the kindness of her heart. She is awesome.”
Jones’ handkerchiefs have chronicled loved ones lost to cancer, accidents, age, suicide and even shootings, as well helping their families to grieve and remember their loved ones. She has photographs of every design.
“I can just see the amount of emotion and appreciation,” she said. “It means so much to them to have this in their hand.”
Her kindness has even extended to the family of former Saints player Will Smith, who was shot to death in New Orleans in 2016. His handkerchief is embroidered with “In loving memory” with his name, football number and a fleur-de-lis. A friend who works for the Saints organization delivered them to Smith’s family.
She also sent nearly 100 handkerchiefs to the family of Taylor Friloux, the former manager of Raising Cane’s stabbed to death, also in 2016. The handkerchief has her name with angel wings.
Jones sent them to the family of Westwego Police Officer Michael Louviere, killed in last year’s shooting.
“Half of the people I’ve never actually met myself,” Jones said. “Usually, I don’t hear from anybody, but that’s not why I do it.”
But for the ones she does know, making the handkerchiefs can be difficult.
“The hardest ones I probably ever did was for my first husband who passed way three weeks before my daughter’s wedding,” Jones said.
They bore his name.
“It just makes me feel good if I’m comforting someone else,” Jones said. “Some people have asked my why not try to sell them, but I just can’t do it.”
In her hands, these indiscriminate white hankys become beloved remembrances.
A family friend’s hanky says, “Love you Loads,” which her daughter-in-law requested because that was the woman’s saying. Another one with a favored saying reads, “NBL” meaning “Nothing but love.”
The longest message she recalled embroidering says, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched but are felt in the heart.”
“It’s been an interesting kind of journey,” said Jones, who now does the embroidering from a wheelchair while she recovered from back surgery. “I feel for the people. It comes from the heart. This is how I can say ‘I’m sorry you have a loss and I hope this helps.’ Anyway I can help someone I’m going to do it.”