Photo Credit: Newsday/Alan Raia
Frederick J. Lipski, a warehouse manager who in retirement spent up to seven hours a day making quilts for military veterans, firefighters and police officers, died March 3 at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, having completed about 780 of the mementos.
The cause was pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
The Lipski family home in Lindenhurst was festooned with American flags. His wardrobe included a pair of red, white and blue suspenders, an American flag tie, and so many caps and T-shirts bearing military insignia that strangers sometimes assumed he was an active-duty service veteran.
In fact, Lipski tried to enlist in the Army at 19 but was turned down because of a heart murmur. He later joined a National Guard unit of the 42nd Rainbow Division in Bay Shore. When talking to active duty service members, he didn't make much of that, said a daughter, Melonie Murray, of West Babylon.
"He'd say, 'That's nothing, compared to what you guys did.' "
His mission turned out to be a quieter, more peaceful one. Too sick to work but not content to sit idly at home in 2002, he began by helping his wife, Laura, a master quilter, cut patches for the classes she taught in hospitals and senior centers across Long Island.
Her quilts were sometimes entered into contests and shows. His, when he started to make his own, were always gifts. He found his recipients in hospitals, retirement homes and doctors' waiting rooms by asking strangers -- in fact, Murray said, "anyone he came into contact with" -- if they happened to be veterans.
An affirmative answer meant a 3-foot-by-3-foot quilt was on the way. Most bore an American flag, perhaps a scrap of camouflage, a patch from the recipient's unit if one could be found, and the recipient's name. Some of Lipski's quilts warmed laps, or were framed and put on walls. One was draped over a coffin when its owner, a Navy veteran, was buried. Others went to submarines or military bases foreign and domestic, wherever their owners were stationed.
"I feel so great when I get a note back thanking me," Lipski told Newsday in 2008. "I really believe I have a guardian angel who led me to this work."
In the past two years, Murray said, his rate of production fell. "The dexterity wasn't there in his hand. He could barely lift the quilts. He was doing one a month if he could."
Besides his daughter, Lipski is survived by sons Christopher, of Lindenhurst, and Joseph, of Waymart, Pa. Laura, his wife of 50 years, died last year.
Lipski was born in Jamaica, Queens. He retired from NAPCO Security Systems in Amityville in 2002, after 30 years with the company.
At Lipski's request, following cremation his ashes were put in an urn decorated with an American flag and eagle. Red, white and blue carnations, and American flags will be passed out at a memorial service scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Massapequa Funeral Home's South Chapel, 4980 Merrick Rd. in Massapequa Park.