Olive's Journey

In November 2015, Olive Emma Bucklin died at the age of 58. For 10 years, she had endured a progressive loss of physical and mental acuity, changes in behavior and personality, and the ever-diminishing quality of life that afflicts 6 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

Olive was a Nebraska Educational Television producer as well as a writer, independent filmmaker, advertising copywriter, teacher, avid gardener, and devoted quiltmaker. As dementia asserted its presence in her brain, her motor skills declined, leaving her unable to write, type, or even comb her hair. Cognitive losses made it impossible to read, and difficult to understand explanations, directions, or even television programs. Aphasia made speech laborious and simple conversation nearly impossible.

But Olive never lost her love of fabric, color, and texture, or her ability to visualize a finished quilt. Quilting became a refuge of creativity, and even when she could no longer cut fabric or use her sewing machine, she spent hours each week browsing fabric stores and, with increasing help, she continued to quilt.

This exhibition includes twelve of Olive’s quilts. Nine of them were made in the last two years of her life, with her sister, Judy Bucklin Lane, as Olive descended into dementia’s fog of amyloid plaques, tau tangles, and shrunken, atrophied frontal and temporal lobes.

Click on the quilt images to learn more about the pieces and to see a larger view.

For more information on Alzheimer's Disease, visit alz.org/nebraska.