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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

 

In Memoriam Carol Schiaffino


We were quite dismayed over the weekend to receive an e-mail from a reader in New Orleans informing us that Carol Schiaffino, proprietor of The Quilt Cottage quilt store in New Orleans, passed away March 28. (Carol is the one on the left in this photo).

We always tried to visit Carol in her store, the last surviving quilt store in New Orleans proper (at the corner of Magazine and Nashville Streets). She was full of news about the quilting scene not just in Louisiana but along the whole Gulf Coast, and filled us in on the latest successes and calamities, including the impacts of Hurricane Katrina on the quilting community in the area. Her own business closed for a good while after the storm, and was just getting back to a semblance of regular hours when we last visited in January of this year. During that visit she was as enthusiastic as always, and her store was bursting with the distinctive fabrics and New Orleans flavor that she made sure it had. We swapped ideas about new products we liked and she steered us to some great quilt shops in Baton Rouge, where we were headed the next day for a brief tour.

Running a quilt store is often a labor of love, and it was clear that she still loved it despite the hardships of Katrina and the relentless demands of a small business. Her little store on the corner was an oasis for quilters in the area, many of whom had lost everything, including their sewing machines and fabric stashes, to the flooding and chaos that engulfed the city in August 2005. We don't know what will happen to the business. Quilt shops are fragile enterprises, and without the commitment and energy Carol brought to it, we don't know if The Quilt Cottage will survive. We hope it does, but we will have to wait and see. In the meantime we mourn the loss of one of the people in New Orleans who seemed indispensable to us, and a good friend. We wish her farewell with the traditional New Orleans blessing: Laissez les bontemps roulez.


Comments:
Carol was one of the sweetest people I ever met. I first encountered her about ten years ago, and she always encouraged me--not only in quilt projects, but as a mom and person. She took several projects from me as consignments over the years, but it was her gentle encouragement and humor that made her a great friend. She was very proud of her three children and grandchildren and didn't brag about her own accomplishments. She had a great sense of humor and could tell a story that would have you hanging for the ending.
I am glad that I went in to the shop a couple of weeks ago and saw her then. I feel like I have lost a member of my family, and I know that there are dozens of others who must feel even more saddened by Carol's passing.
 
Thank you for this wonderful article about my Mother! She truely loved quilting. She was very proud of her shop. Our family would love to see the business continue to thrive, as our mother worked very hard to build it. The Quilt Cottage has been in existence since about 1981--26 years! Our family is hoping that someone will come forward who may be interested in purchasing the business. Please e-mail me if you may be interested at cassisat@bellsouth.net This is Carol's eldest daughter Carol Schiaffino Cassisa from Baton Rouge.

Thanks!
 
Eulogy Given at Carol's Funeral by her Son-In-Law Tommy Cassisa.

I am proud to share my memories of Martha Carol Smith Schiaffino with you. I have been honored and privileged to know her for the past 19 years and
10 months to the day.

She is known only as "Gannie" to her grandchildren, and affectionately as
"Big Carol" to me. You see, for those of you who don't know, I am married to “Big Carol’s oldest daughter --- "Little Carol."

My Mother-In-Law:

· Was always giving & generous.

· Cared more about people than anything else.

· Was very down to earth.

· Showered her love and kindness on:
o Her 3 children
§ Carol, George and Ellen
o Her 4 grandchildren
§ Andrew (also know as BooBoo22), Peter (also know as PP) and my two kids Libby and Paul
o Her favorite son-in-law
§ Me; and
o Colette
§ Her favorite daughter-in-law.

· She was a very strong person, and she passed down a strong sense of self confidence in all her children.

· She was very smart.
o She could always answer my questions
§ And if the answers weren’t correct, then she sure fooled me a lot of times.

· She was very creative, and loved to quilt.


Let me share some details about MARTHA CAROL SMITH SCHIAFFINO with you:

· She was born in New Orleans on May 2nd, 1939, only a month shy of 68 years
ago, to Dr. George L. Smith and Adele Cornay Smith, whom she always referred to as “Monna”.

· She was the younger sister to Peter C. Smith, now of Houston and Eleanor “Dimpsy” Smith both who she loved dearly.

· She graduated from Ursuline Academy in 1956.



· She earned her Masters from Newcomb College, where she studied
languages --- and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors.

· She received a scholarship to the Alliance Francaise in Paris.

· She met the love of her life --- Robert Ashton (Bob) Schiaffino while she was studying in Paris.

o Carol met Bob when he offered her a ride on his motor scooter.

o She always wanted to see Paris on a motorcycle and went for a ride.

o It must have been a wonderful tour, because 2 weeks later
Bob told Carol that he knew he was going to marry her.

· She returned to New Orleans and taught French at Isidore Newman School
for a year.

· She continued her very long distance relationship with Bob, and they were
engaged during the Christmas season of 1962.

· 6 months later, she eloped to Paris, and they were married in June of 1963.

· She returned to the states in the spring of 1964, pregnant
with her first child --- my wife, “Little Carol.”

· On the way home, the ship was caught in a cyclone and lost at sea for awhile.

o They lost most of their belongings, but they still had each other, and they eventually made it back to America.

· They lived in Baltimore, where Carol , my wife was born in May of 1964.

o Then George was born there in February of 1966.

· The family then moved to Toronto, after Bob accepted a job as a news
reporter with the Canadian Broadcast Center.

· Her 3rd child (Elizabeth Ellen) was born shortly thereafter, in November of
1967.

· Sadly, Carol was a widow when she was only 28 yrs old.

o Bob was killed in a plane crash on April 23rd 1968.

§ Their 3 children were all younger than 4 years old.

· Carol was blessed with a lot of support from both her family and Bob's family.


· She moved back to New Orleans, where she raised her 3 children.

· She was never interested in getting married again.

o She invested her time, love and attention on her children, and later her grandchildren, for the rest of her life.

· Carol made many lifelong friends who shared her love of quilting.

o She was active in the Louisiana Crafts Council, and
numerous quilting groups.

o In 1980, she became one of the owners of a new business - The Quilt Cottage.

o In 1988, she did something she always dreamed of doing – she wrote a book.

§ She co-authored "Fan Quilts," which let her share her love of quilting with others.

o Carol spent many years at The Quilt Cottage, on the corner of Nashville and Magazine.

§ She was extremely proud of her business, and it was an important part of her life until the day she died.

o Carol also did all types of needlework – starting when she was very young.

o She could beautifully sew absolutely anything, including:

§ My ripped shirts and pants;
§ Peter's shirt sleeves; and
§ Paul's ripped jogger stroller.

o She was a great Mom & Grandmother.

§ She knew and loved to have fun with, the friends of her children and then, the friends of her grandchildren.

§ She loved to make things with Play Dough and build with Lego's when she spent time with her grandchildren.

· She also really liked to play video games, and sometimes we wondered if she actually bought the Nintendo for herself.



o She knew it was important that each of her children be their own person.
§ She encouraged each of them to pursue their dreams.
§ She taught them that they could do anything they wanted to do.

o She spoke several foreign languages -- French, Italian, Spanish and
Portuguese.

o She loved discussing the Extra-Terrestrial or UFOs, and was an avid fan of the Art Bell radio show.

o She loved Kentwood Water, and wouldn't even think of drinking tap water from any city.

o She was a wonderful cook.

§ Her roast was fantastic.
§ She is partially responsible for my weight increase over the past 20 years.

o Carol encouraged creativity in everyone she knew.

o She had a strong Catholic Faith.
§ She prayed constantly and had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.
§ Her faith guided her through both the good times, and the tough times, of her life.
§ My 7 year old son, Paul is Carol's youngest grandchild.
· Even this small child knew how strong her faith was.
· When he learned his Gannie had died, he said:
o "Gannie now has wings."

MARTHA CAROL SMITH SCHIAFFINO, Mom, Gannie, Big Carol –

We miss & love you - - - Rest in Peace.
 
Oh that's such sad news. I lived around the corner and loved going in The Quilt Cottage to look at fabric, tools, the wonderful quilts hanging on the walls. Carol and her staff were always the friendliest people. I've only been back twice since evacuating and the shop was closed those times. I hope someone will take it over-we've lost so many businesses and people since 2005. There are a few other quilt shops in the area, but hers was the VERY best. Thank you for posting this notice so I can include her in my prayers. KathleenC NOLA 4ever
 
From the time I first stepped into the Quilt Cottage, I felt as though I had come home - it was that cozy and friendly. What a gem of a store! Carol helped me choose some fabrics to reflect my new appreciation of New Orleans and we talked. Her love of quilting and the city just shined! I truly hope the shop will continue to operate!
I met Carol at Thanksgiving time in 2003, which was my very first trip to the city. My husband had work in New Orleans and I went along for company.
 
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