Mary Agnes & Marine Cpl. Wright
When Mary Agnes Ferris of Guthrie saw a young Marine on the cover of Legion magazine last summer, she said it reminded her of her son when he served in the Army years ago in Vietnam. The photo of Marine Cpl. James “Eddie” Wright also made Ferris proud to be an American.
It spurred her to learn more about Wright, and it stirred her to action – with a paintbrush.
Cpl. Wright received the Bronze Star in 2004 for his heroic actions in Iraq. In the January 2005 photo, the proud Marine salutes with a prosthetic arm in Jacksonville, Fla., after surviving an ambush near Fallujah almost a year earlier. Guiding a supply convoy, Wright served as an assistant team leader in the front Humvee for the 10-mile reconnaissance mission. Sixty Iraqi insurgents fired on them before the troops could retreat and seek aid.
The pride evident in Wright’s saluting photo remained with the patriotic Ferris, and soon it turned into a plan. A few months later, it stirred her to action. She heard about the “Warriors for Peace Tapestry” project of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW). Ferris is a member of the Oklahoma City branch, and she knew exactly where to find her inspiration for Oklahoma’s entry. Undaunted by the required 5-by-4-foot piece of white linen, she painted a life-like Marine Cpl. Wright in acrylic on linen fabric. She also telephoned Wright.
Ferris enlisted the aid of young artist Jennifer Barron to help paint the Marine’s face. Masters of Linen in New York donated the Irish linen for all states. Also helping Ferris were her granddaughter and son, who searched thrift shops, Army surplus stores, catalogs and the Internet for Marine buttons, campaign ribbons and the emblem for the hat. Ferris attached these items to the finished painting.
They rolled up the mixed-media piece, and in January shipped it to Colorado, where it joins 71 other pieces to form the tapestry for peace. The Denver branch of the NLAPW’s plan is to stitch the panels together, add a lining and roll the tapestry on 5-foot wooden scrolls. Entries will be embroidered, painted or quilted, but all will share the theme of peace in symbols, pictures or poems. The traveling exhibit will feature framed individual pieces, hinged together in groups of six. The National Pen Women Home in Washington, D.C., has eight bedrooms and is in consideration for the permanent home of the collection after its nationwide journey.
Ferris traveled to Colorado in April for the dedication of the joint tapestry at the biennial convention. Also attending was Edmond resident Dena Gorrell, a former poet laureate of the Poetry Society of Oklahoma and current president of the Oklahoma City Branch of the NLAPW.
The NLAPW chose a tapestry for reasons rooted in history. Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, is sometimes credited with embroidering her husband’s famous battles on 22-inch panels of fine linen and joining them to form a tapestry. Started in 1066 to chronicle The Battle of Hastings, the piece is now called the Bayeux Tapestry; the completed embroidery measures 230 feet long. Thirty-five panels survive and are displayed in the small northern town of Bayeux, France.
The NLAPW explained the motivation for its monumental project: “Our vision is that the tapestry will create in the hearts and minds of all participants the conceivability of a world without fear, borders or barricades as we literally stitch our lives together in this expression of a peaceful coexistence.”
The patriotic Ferris shares that sentiment. Her parents came from Austria, and she is a first-generation born in America. The men in her family served in Vietnam, Korea and both world wars, and her parents and grandparents continued to grow victory gardens even during peacetime. Ferris said of her painting, “I feel my Marine is my little bit for peace until we are free again and all of our ‘Marines’ can come home.”
For more information about the National League of American Pen Women, go online to www.nlapw.org; click on “Branches” to find Oklahoma contacts.