It's been over a year since I met Ervin Huslig at Perkins for lunch one sunny afternoon. He had been sent with a special delivery: a charming wicker basket of neatly folded hand-crocheted wash cloths and puffs that his wife, Mary Ann, had made for me to sell with my soap out at the Farmers Market, and wherever else I decided to set up shop. The basket was clearly filled with the same love and colorfulness as the couple behind it.
I first met Ervin and Mary Ann at St John's Catholic Church in Lawrence---a vibrant community that left a lasting mark on me. When I left Lawrence and moved to Great Bend in 2007, I felt great fondness for anyone from that community who stopped by on their way through. This is how I got to know Ervin and Mary Ann even more. They had just moved to Pratt, KS which was only a short drive from Great Bend. Over the years, we found ourselves together at diocesan functions, dinner theater events, and they even came to the Annual Charity Wine Tasting event that I coordinate for Catholic Social Service. I loved seeing them because of our common Lawrence connection, and I loved getting to know them even better at these different events.
And so, when I started selling soap in 2013, Mary Ann was one of my first and most enthusiastic supporters! She encouraged and gave suggestions, and eventually, she offered to crochet washcloths to go along with my soap. After all, she and Ervin were traveling a lot in their RV, and crocheting was something she loved to do as they drove across the country. She would make and sell the washcloths on consignment, and I would get a portion of the proceeds. I loved the idea!
Sadly, just a few months ago on April 20th, Ervin and MaryAnn were on their way to a quilting show in Kentucky when a tire on their RV blew just outside of St Louis and Ervin lost control of the motorhome. Reports describe a fiery crash with no survivors, and just like that, Ervin and MaryAnn were gone. It was such a sudden and shocking lost.
Today, I think about Mary Ann often as I pass by the shelf where her beautiful colorful washcloths lay. I treasure them, and I am reminded that handmade items, whether they be washcloths or soap, are special life-giving treasures because they contain a magical kernel of human life that no machine-made object can ever match.