Central Texas sheriff with 51 years in law enforcement awarded ‘quilt of service’

Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 12:03 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Having spent 51-years in law enforcement, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara has received awards and recognitions before, however, never one ‘sew’ special that ‘pin’ points his service.

On Wednesday afternoon, McNamara was presented with a ‘quilt of service’ in front of a crowd of his family, friends and staff at the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office.

The award was a well-kept surprise.

“I thought I was coming down here to solve a problem,” McNamara joked. “Problems...I’ve been dealing with those all day long...and now ‘here we got another one,’ and I walk in and here’s a room full of people and I’m going ‘oh my gosh, what in the world?’”

Local quilter Jeffree Itrich presented McNamara with the red, white and blue quilt and read a letter of explanation and gratitude aloud, which made McNamara tear up.

“He was a little emotional when he looked at it because it was his life in fabric,” said Itrich. “What goes into a quilt, what you’re giving that person, they feel it.”

And McNamara clearly felt it.

“My family was here, you know, the best sheriff’s office in the country, most of them were here, and just the support that I and the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office has had all these years, it’s overwhelming, it got to me, it was pretty emotional,” said McNamara. “It means so much and it was very humbling, they put a lot of work into it, a lot of time, it was overwhelming, it was just so cool.”

The quilts are stitched by two women in New Mexico, Kathi Henderson and Bonnie Aker, for worthy law enforcement officers, first-responders, military veterans and Gold Star families.

“Quilts of Service was founded by two women in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they previously made 106 quilts for the Quilts of Valor organization and then founded their own,” said Itrich. “To date, they’ve made 56 quilts of service.”

A handful them have been made for Texas law enforcement.

“They’ve mostly done quilts for people in New Mexico--I said ‘we have people here in Texas who are pretty deserving, too!’” said Itrich.

Recipients who get nominated go ‘above and beyond’ in their fields.

“I heard about the human trafficking unit here, and when I heard about the Sheriff sending his team into Poland to train the police there on how to identify sex traffickers who were praying on vulnerable people coming out of Ukraine...that person deserves a quilt,” said Itrich.

Each handmade quilt is personal, with designs, patterns and patches representing what the recipient stands for.

For McNamara it was police-related patches including a U.S. Marshals patch representing his longtime service with the agency.

“We have fabrics that feature all the different aspects of his life,” said Itrich.

There was also stitching in the shape of boots, spurs, and the Sheriff’s famous cowboy hat.

“It’s unbelievable when you look at it, look at the detail,” said McNamara. “I might cuddle up in it, it’s so nice, it’s absolutely beautiful, just very humbled, very appreciative and definitely will hang the quilt in a place of honor here at the Sheriff’s Office.”

The Sheriff threw credit to his team and the citizens.

“It’s not just me, but it’s an effort of our narcotics, patrol, CID unit, our jail, our human trafficking team, this whole department is A+, I’m just proud to be a part of it,” said McNamara. “When I was with the U.S. Marshals, the government hired me, but the people hire the sheriff, the sheriff is the people’s voice in law enforcement, and I never forget that so ‘thank you’ to our good citizens for putting their trust in the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office and me.”

McNamara said he felt there were others more deserving of the award.

Itrich disagreed, saying he was given the quilt for his ‘vision, commitment, perseverance and success.’

“He is so deserving of this honor, but the honor was mine to be able to do this for him,” said Itrich.

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