Thomas helps stitch Clothesline of Quilts

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Has painted about 80 area barn decorations

By Becca Owsley

Martha Thomas’ rural life has led to many adventures including farming, serving in the sheriff’s office and scattering quilt squares across the county.


In 1972, Thomas joined a homemakers club. She has been the county club president twice, Rineyville club president twice and held every other office in-between, she said.

For about nine years, Thomas has worked with the area homemakers’ Clothesline of Quilts project. Over that time, she said, she’s probably worked on about 80 quilt squares found on barns, homes and free-standing throughout the county from West Point to Upton.

Thomas, along with fellow committee member Maxine Warnhuis, paints each square.

“Martha is the treasurer, head painter and pickup coordinator for the Clothesline of Quilts project,” Extension agent for the project Amy Aldenderfer said. “That means she’s a dedicated, hard-working member of the committee.”

After someone buys a quilt square, they choose the pattern and colors of the design. Thomas checks the site to make sure a square can be mounted on the barn and can be seen from the road on the trail.

“Sometimes the patterns are really difficult and sometimes they are straight lines,” Thomas said. “It’s fun to watch it take shape and come together to look like the full picture.”

Thomas said seeing quilt squares hanging on barns when she drives gives her a great feeling of accomplishment.

“They’re scattered everywhere,” she said.

Each block of plywood has to be painted with primer, then a pattern is drawn on it and each color receives at least three coats of paint, Thomas said.

But she doesn’t feel like she’s very artistic.

“An artist I’m not,” she said, adding she has some grandchildren who are.

Along with the quilt squares, she creates ceramics every week and has taken some freehand painting classes at the Extension Service. Thomas said she was surprised by how well she did.

She may not consider herself artistic, but she and her family are musical.

Thomas’ son Greg said his mother sang with her sisters a lot when they were younger, even recording a song on a 45 record that ended up melting in her mother’s attic.

Her family continues to get together to play and sing, he said.

Thomas has lived on her farm 55 years and her sons have continued the farming tradition. Two of her daughters also married men who have a hand in farming, she said.

She raised a large family on the farm, three sons and three daughters.

“It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun. If you’re going to have a big family, the place to raise them is on a farm,” she said.

She works with her sons on the farm, where they raise crops, cattle and hay. Previously, the family operated a dairy farm for 38 years.

“We’ve always been a farm family,” she said, noting five generations have lived on the family farm.

She still enjoys watching beef calves romp around, seeing crops in the field and keeping the farm looking as neat as possible.

“What I used to do in a half a day takes me two days now and I run out of energy a long time before I run out of job,” she said.

At 72, she likes bailing hay with her son.

“It’s a feeling of accomplishment when you see the wagon piled up with hay bales,” she said.

Daughter Lisa Parrett said Thomas’ motto always has been, “faith, family, friends” and she lives her life according to that motto.

“She is an amazing woman,” Parrett said. “She finished dad’s term as sheriff after he died and continued to be there for all of us and her homemakers organization.”

Sheriff Bobby Thomas died after a battle with cancer in 2001 and, after his death, Thomas finished his term as sheriff.

Thomas called her time as sheriff “interesting and educational.” She credited her involvement in homemakers for leadership skills that prepared her for the office.

The experience included many different responsibilities, she said.

“You never knew when you went in what was going to happen that day,” she said.

Thomas is the only woman to hold the office of sheriff in Hardin County.

“She’s a pistol-packing momma,” Greg said.

Becca Owsley can be reached at 270- 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Getting to know Martha Thomas

  • Favorite movies: “Backstreet,” “Pretty Woman,” “You’ve Got Mail”
  • Favorite book: The Bible, “Pride and Prejudice,” comedy books and books about history.
  • Favorite TV shows: “Bluebloods,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and reruns of “Golden Girls”
  • Favorite music: Country, bluegrass, gospel and Elvis
  • Sports: Yankees, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville but most of her family are UK fans
  • Family: Six children, 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren
  • Community activity: Previous Farm Bureau women’s chairwoman for 10 years and current committee member, Extension Council and the first woman to serve on the Hardin County Extension Foundation board.
  • Church: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church