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Irma Gail Hatcher

Ex-educator also world-class quilter by Jeannie Roberts | July 28, 2021 at 3:43 a.m.

Irma Gail Hatcher, a master quilter whose creations garnered national and international accolades, died Sunday at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock. She was 82.

The cause of death was complications from dialysis and diabetes, said her son, Greg Hatcher.

After 11 days in the hospital, she briefly regained consciousness and could only whisper as she asked her family to "Please let me go," her son said.

"We asked her again and again. She just kept confirming it," Hatcher said. "We couldn't blame her. We were able to call her grandkids and she died with her three kids holding her hands. She left on her terms."

Irma Gail Hatcher -- who was born in Fort Worth on Oct. 30, 1938 -- graduated from Polytechnic High School in 1956. At 18, she married "the love of her life," the late Joe Hatcher. She later earned her education degree from Baker University in Baldwin, Kan.

She taught fourth grade at Baldwin Elementary School in Kansas for numerous years, while raising her children: Greg Hatcher, Geoff Hatcher and Gailyn Strobing.

Irma Gail Hatcher and the family followed her husband's career in higher education, moving from Kansas to Missouri to Michigan and finally in 1981 to Hendrix College, where her husband served as president until 1991.

She gave up teaching to volunteer in the community and as a Sunday school teacher at Conway United Methodist Church and later at Trinity Presbyterian Church when she moved to Little Rock to be closer to her three children and grandchildren.

"My mother was the energy in our family," Greg Hatcher said. "That song, 'The Wind Beneath My Wings,' it was her. She was the wind behind us. My father got most of the credit, but she was the one behind him."

Irma Gail Hatcher taught art classes, with her favorite art forms changing over the years from painting to drawing, needlepoint and finally to quilting.

She became a master quilter, many times spending more than a year on a single quilt, working eight hours a day on that one creation.

"Her quilts were masterpieces and three of them are in the National Quilting Museum in Paducah [Kentucky]," Greg Hatcher said.

Her quilt, "Conway Album (I'm not from Baltimore)," won numerous awards around the nation and was named as one of the "100 Best American Quilts of the 20th Century" at the 1999 International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Irma Gail Hatcher was selected to have three of her quilts in the exhibit, "30 Distinguished Quilters of the World," at the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival in January 2002.

Her quilts graced the covers of numerous national magazines and publications. She taught quilting classes, wrote numerous quilting books and was the president and founder of the Conway Quilters.

In 2003, she was presented the Arkansas Living Treasure Award, which recognizes Arkansans in the field of traditional craft whose contributions to that field, over a lifetime, have fostered significant recognition for themselves and their art form.

In her younger days, his mother was a clutch tennis player as well, Greg Hatcher said.

"If she wanted to do something, she got it done and if she didn't want to do something she was just as strong," he said.

Irma Gail Hatcher was fun loving, adventurous and had an enormous sense of humor, Greg Hatcher said.

"She was the type that would ride the amusement park rides five times in a row," he said. "She wrestled with me on the couch."

His father was the steady and disciplined one of the family, Greg Hatcher said.

"If we were at the dinner table and dad got on to us, she would burst out laughing if we looked at her just right," Greg Hatcher said. "She would get into trouble instead of us. She was always trying to bite her lip."

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