COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — For members of Ohio's large new first family, the stole worn by Father Tom Hagan throughout Republican Gov. Mike DeWine's inaugural weekend was a way to involve their beloved late daughter in the celebration.
First lady Fran DeWine sewed the priest's garment from pieces of fabric cut from her late daughter Becky's dresses and other clothing items. She gave it to him about six years ago, to wear when officiating her son Mark's wedding.
"I was trying to think of some way in the program to include Becky, and the idea just came to me about Father Tom," Fran DeWine said in an Associated Press interview. "He always wears a stole and he had one that was kind of rainbow colored, so I thought, 'I could make it out of Becky's clothes.'"
The clothes had been lovingly stored since Becky DeWine, who was 22 at the time, died in a car crash in 1993. She was the third of the DeWine's eight children and was looking forward to a career in journalism after recently graduated from Wooster College.
Hagan runs the Hands Together charity in Cite Soliel, Haiti, and a school there named for her late daughter.
Fran DeWine said she thought for years about making Becky's clothes into a memory quilt, but she could never settle on a satisfactory design. Then she thought of the stole and the project took off. "Actually, I made it fairly quickly once I had that idea," she said.
The stole incorporates fabrics from throughout Becky's life — a little pink-and-white checked baby dress, a skirt Becky made as her first 4-H project, a scarf that was part of her work uniform at Ponderosa, her running shorts and the white blouse with black polka dots that she wore in the last photo ever taken of her.
"Lots and lots of special little pieces in there," Fran said.
Fran DeWine said assembling the stole was emotional for her and she struggled to pick only the most special items to include — but now that it's done, it brings back many good memories.
"When I look at it, I see Becky at Ponderosa, I see her working on her 4-H project, I see her at the College of Wooster, I see her running," she said. "I see her all these places. I see every part of her life in that little piece, and so it's really special to me."
Hagan reserves the stole for special occasions, especially when saying Mass with the DeWines.
DeWine said Hagan wore it on Sunday morning, Jan. 13, for a Mass at the DeWines' home in Cedarville and again at Mike DeWine's formal inauguration at midnight that night.
Hagan drew attention to the stole at DeWine's ceremonial inauguration on Jan. 14, approaching Fran DeWine to place it around his neck.
"It is my great honor to be able to receive this stole that was made lovingly by Fran out of all the dresses of her daughter, Becky," he told the crowd in the Statehouse Rotunda. "She's with us now."
DeWine said the very bottom piece on each side of the stole came from vestments that her parents donated to their church in honor of her uncle, Ralph Struewing, who died in Korea. He was also 22 when he died, so she said it was her way of tying the whole family history together.