A racing career stitched together
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The international ski racing career of local businessman Johnny Buxman is all wrapped up under the Christmas tree, in the form of memory quilts made from dozens of his colorful ski race bibs.
The quilts, four altogether, are gifts from Athena Buxman, 92, to her son Johnny, and from Regina Buxman, Johnny’s wife, to her father-in-law, John Buxman.
Turning the stacks of bibs that were stored in a trunk into quilts, which can be displayed on a bed or from a rack on the wall, has been Athena’s dream for years.
This year, with the help of Regina and seamstress Angie Herrington, of Silt, the dream finally came true.
Quilts, said Athena, “are more visible to people” than creating a scrapbook. And a quilt “represents warmth,” she added.
Most importantly, the quilts document Johnny Buxman’s years of ski racing, starting at age 16 when he was named the youngest member of the U.S. Ski Team. Buxman raced on the World Cup circuit and won spots on the prestigious world championship teams in 1982 and 1985, while spending the summer months training on glaciers in South America.
The quilts show off bibs from races in Norway, Germany, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Canada, Japan and the United States.
Great skier by third grade
Growing up in Vail in the 1960s and ’70s, Johnny Buxman and his family were devoted skiers. Regina and Johnny met in elementary school, and Regina remembers Johnny being an outstanding skier by the time he was in third grade.
Athena, who is Greek, skied with Regina’s German-born mother and other Vail women. They called themselves the “Super Chickens,” and they’d often engage an instructor to coach them and improve their style.
“When you start to ski, it’s hard to quit,” said Athena, who didn’t give up the sport until she was in her early 80s. After that, she left Vail for Arizona so she could play golf. “You can’t live in a place like Vail and not ski,” she said. She recently moved to Glenwood Springs to be close to family.
Athena followed Johnny’s racing career very closely, as did his father.
“Win or lose, I had so much fun watching him race, so much fun,” Athena said.
As Johnny’s racing career shifted to the pro circuit, which is less demanding, he and Regina moved to Glenwood Springs and bought the Springs Theatre. When he announced his retirement from professional ski racing at 33, he built the Slickrock Cinema in Moab.
Johnny also works closely with his father, also of Glenwood Springs, managing their chain of Village Markets located on the Western Slope and in Moab.
Stitching bibs into quilts
After losing her eyesight two years ago, Athena lost hope for the quilt project. But earlier this year, she and Regina secretly teamed up to get it done. Through Glenwood Sew, the quilting store at 822 Grand Ave. in downtown Glenwood Springs, they met Herrington, who agreed to take on the task.
Since the bibs have identical front and back sides, Herrington was able to split the 53 bibs to make two sets of matching quilts.
Herrington cut the bibs in half, fused each one to a square of solid blue fabric, and then sewed around the edges in a decorative applique stitch. Then she pieced the squares together to create the quilt top, cut and sewed the quilt backing and padding, pinned all three layers together and machine-tacked the quilt together. Finally, she sewed fabric edging around all four sides and added a few decorative ties that resemble the ties used on racing bibs.
The whole project was spread out on her living room floor, with the furniture pushed back to make room for each quilt as she assembled the layers.
The smaller quilts, 110 by 87 inches, are large enough for a queen bed, and the larger quilts, 100 by 100 inches, are big enough to cover a king-sized bed.
Herrington has been sewing since she was 10 years old and quilting for the past 15 years. Even with this expertise, she worked on the project almost every day for four weeks and the last of the quilts are still not quite finished.
Although Herrington has just met Athena and Regina Buxman through this project, they have a passion for skiing in common.
“I have been skiing for over 50 years, and still ski twice a week all season long. So I really had personal interest in making these quilts. It was a joy,” Herrington said.
She also has a strong ski connection to Vail, where her son, Kevin Latchford, has worked on the ski patrol for the past 30 years. He is currently the head of avalanche control for the resort.
Athena and Regina say the project wouldn’t have been possible without Herrington’s work.
“Every time I met with Angie, I was in here for hours,” Regina said as they gathered at Glenwood Sew earlier this week to receive the finished quilts from Herrington. “I kept telling Angie, ‘I’m glad it’s you and not me making these quilts,'” Regina said.
With the holiday gift-giving this weekend, Athena’s vision for the quilts, Regina’s organization and Herrington’s sewing skills will all come together under the tree as beautiful gifts.