HJ/EDHerald Journal, Feb. 6, 2006

LP family makes quilts for Oak Ridge Boys

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Mike and Brenda Merriman of Lester Prairie took the term “fan mail” to a whole new level when they made personalized gifts for their favorite band, the Oak Ridge Boys.

“The first time I saw them was in 1976, and I’ve been a fan ever since,” Mike said.

Throughout the years, the Merrimans have actually evolved from being just fans of the group to actual friends of the band.

Having attended one of the Oak Ridge Boys’ concerts during their first date, the Merrimans have sparked a special love affair with the renowned country group.

“I’ve probably seen them 125 times or more,” Mike said.

The Merrimans got to know the band personally about five years ago after one of their concerts.

“I think they recognized us, because we are always at their concerts,” Mike said.

The group began talking to them afterwards, and they became friends.

“They are very down to earth,” Brenda said.

When the Merrimans brought their specially made Oak Ridge Boys quilt to a concert one time, drummer Chris Golden loved it so much, he suggested they make one for each of the Oak Ridge Boys.

Golden, son of Oak Ridge Boys member William Lee Golden, explained the quilts would be wonderful for the group to have on the bus while touring.

This was no simple request, as the Merrimans’ quilt was made out of 30 Oak Ridge Boys’ T-shirts.

The first task was finding enough T-shirts; then being able to part with the shirts by cutting them up, and sewing them together.

Which is where Lester Prairie quilter Lois Schmitz came into the picture.

“We have to give a lot of the credit to Lois,” Mike said.

Brenda had met Schmitz earlier and had received a couple of quilts from her, so she asked for her help.

Schmitz handmade the quilts for the Merrimans, who gathered and cut the T-shirts, and designed each one.

“She finished them faster than I ever could have imagined,” Mike said.

There were a total of four quilts, one for each of the Oak Ridge Boys, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, and Richard Sterban.

Lois spent about 300 hours on each quilt, hand-stitching everything.

But before a single thread could be sewn, the Merrimans set out on the not-so-easy task of finding enough T-shirts.

Altogether, they needed 45 T-shirts, 15 for each of the quilts. But not just any shirt would do.

“We tried to base each quilt around the guy’s personality,” Mike said.

They gathered shirts from every kind of source, including the Internet, the depths of their closets, and the band members themselves, which led to some unique finds.

“Some of the shirts are 20 years old, and some were never released to the public,” Mike said.

“We even gave up the shirt we bought on our first date,” Brenda said.

After all the quilts were done, the Merrimans presented them to the grateful Oak Ridge Boys at their concert at Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen.

“I feel like they’ve given us a gift because we’ve been enjoying their music for so many years. This is just a little way to say ‘thanks,’” Mike said.

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