Shop owner turns treasured fabrics into lasting keepsakes
Mary Short made a bear for her father-n-law, Luke Short, following his Honor Flight. Photo contributed by Mary Short.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Making bears is a ministry for Mary Short, who, with her daughter, Crystal, operate Danni Nicole’s at 119 N. Main in Hannibal.
The shop, named in honor of her daughter, lost to a car wreck in 2008, offers unique clothing and accessories, carefully selected for locals and town visitors alike.
Behind the curtain dividing retail from workroom, is where Mary’s ministry begins.
She makes bears and bunnies and pillows, cats and dogs - and even one sloth - from fabric representing ties to loved ones now passed.
In the back of the store, Mary cuts and styles the fabric brought in by bereaved family members, and adds interfacing for durability, buttons for eyes, and stuffing, in order to transform dry goods into lasting keepsakes.
At last count, Mary has created 3,000 memorial stuffed animals and pillows, since she began in 2009.
“When (daughters) Danni and Crystal were little girls, Danni loved Winnie the Pooh, so she was all about bears. They gave me a long Winnie the Pooh gown. Later, when I was trying to clean stuff out, I decided to make a bear out of the gown, and I put it on Facebook.”
She said people noticed it, and started making requests.
“It’s all about therapy for me,” she said. “I love listening to other people’s stories, everyone has a story. I love making (stuffed animals) for people. I've probably been sewing on them every day since 2012,” she said.
Mary, who has attended the First Baptist Church at New London for 40 years, said there are some stuffed animals that she prays over.
A lot of local people who order bears, “I know them in some way, some form. Some don’t have faith at all. I help them get through their time. Some, their faith is bigger than mine. It is awesome to see that.
“Life was hard,” after Danni died, Mary admits. “My husband has amazing faith. It took me years to get to the point (when I realized) I will be just fine. I get to share that with others.
“I don’t think I would have a connection with people when sewing bears if I didn’t have my own story.
"I tell people to call me anytime, even the middle of night - if they need somebody to talk to. I desperately wanted someone to talk to,” after Danni died. “Lana Riefesel, her son had died, her only child. She shared her story with me. ‘It will get better.’ She was right.”
About the sloth, “I thought that would be the ugliest thing. I made it and it did turn out cute,” Mary said.
She is now able to put a voice recording box inside the stuffed animals she makes. “They can take a voice off a phone message, video, almost anything.”
She has also put a jar of ashes inside.
“I try to do what people ask as long as I feel like it’s the right thing,” she said.
She takes pictures of every project, and puts the photos into scrapbooks.
“I plan on making them forever, until people quit asking me,” Mary said.
Her stuffed animals have been shipped all over the United States.
Recently, she received box from Pennsylvania, containing a bear with no face.
“A week went by and she called.” Her dog bit the face off. “I rebuilt the bear and sent it back to her,” Mary said.
Mary Short said this is one of her favorite bears. “My granddaughter Charli, always had the most adorable dresses. Her mom was heartbroken when her favorite dress got a hole in it. So I turned it into a teddy bear.” On the butt, there are ruffles from the dress. Photo contributed by Mary Short