News & Politics

Tied Together by Love

After her husband’s death, Wendy Luke gathered his bow ties, all 166, and had them made into a quilt that gives comfort

Tears glistening in her eyes, Wendy Luke looks out her bedroom window. She seems far away, lost in happy memories.

As she turns and focuses on the quilt hanging above her bed, she smiles. “He was such a bright, funny person,” she says.

After Luke’s husband, Stephen Weil, died of liver failure in August 2005, she wanted a joyful way to remember him. A legal expert in the arts, Weil was deputy director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden for more than 20 years.

At a friend’s suggestion, Luke worked with local artist Cyndi Souder to design a memorial quilt. The result: an explosion of shapes and colors made from Weil’s collection of 166 bow ties.

“I wanted the quilt to reflect his personality and our relationship,” says Luke, a human-resources consultant. Luke and Weil had been together for 18 years.

Luke says the quilt reminds her of fireworks exploding or Champagne corks popping. Weil’s bow ties—with polka dots and stripes, teddy bears and fish—jump off the black silk background.

Some of Weil’s favorite quotes, which covered his office bulletin board, are stitched into the fabric: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” “Science seeks out laws. Art looks for exceptions.”

Luke’s Foggy Bottom apartment in DC is full of art, but she chose to hang this piece in a private space. Last June 24—the day that would have been Weil’s 79th birthday—Luke hosted a party to celebrate the quilt’s completion. Friends and family members gathered to toast Steve.

“It’s such a joyous memorial,” says Luke. “He would be thrilled with it.”