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Madie Richter (Photo: Travis Richey Photography)
What would you do if you had a room full of fabric samples, an old sewing machine and a heart as big as Texas? If you were Madie Richter, you’d make pillows – thousands of pillows. If you were Madie Richter, you’d find a way to bring joy to the hearts of children by making gifts of those pillows to children living with illness and deprivation.
Madie Richter, one of Bellaire’s earliest residents, moved to our community with her husband, Bob, and their two young sons in 1951. Bob worked for Madie’s father who owned Keeton Industries, a fabric business in Fort Worth, and fifty years later, she still lives in the home she and Bob shared for much of their 57-year marriage. Madie, a past board member of the Southwest Houston Chamber of Commerce and her friends, including past Bellaire mayors and city council members, who were instrumental in crafting the community we know today, can be found breakfasting at the Bellaire Coffee Shop (in the Bellaire triangle) every weekday morning, a ritual she has enjoyed for years.
In his position with Keeton industries, Bob Richter represented fabric manufacturers all over the world and naturally, they would send him fabric samples, many of which ended up in Richter’s garage. When Bob became ill with cancer a few years ago, Madie occupied her mind and time by dusting off her old sewing machine and making brightly colored cuddly pillows out of the fabric samples. Before long the house overflowed with pillows.
After Bob’s death in October 1999, Madie began to donate the pillows to hospitals and schools. Last Christmas, children at Texas Children’s Hospital were recipients of the first 1,000 pillows. And then she made more pillows. Red, yellow, green, orange – colors to warm the heart – patterns and solids, Madie sewed and sewed some more. She donated another 1,000 pillows to children living with cancer at M.D. Anderson. At Gordon Elementary School in Bellaire, all 560 students received one of Madie’s pillows. Bob’s suppliers continue to send samples to Madie, supporting her in her efforts to give to others. Madie was sick with pneumonia when the children at Gordon were to receive her gift to them. Upon the urging of the school principal, Madie got out of bed and went to watch while the students were given their pillows.
“I got a heck of a lot more out of giving those pillows than they got,” she said.