HANFORD — As National Victims’ Rights Week prepared to come to a close, families in Kings County embraced in sharing both their grief and fonder memories.
On Thursday evening, members of the community came to First Baptist Hanford to view quilts that are displayed annually. On each of them, viewers will see squares and patches representing the victims of homicide within the county.
Members of the community were welcome to visit throughout the day see the quilts, with the evening culminating in the invitation-only unveiling for 2019 and 2020. During the unveiling, Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes explained the history and importance Crime Victims’ Awareness Week, along with what it means to be the victim of a crime.
“The definition of victims is far and wide. It is broader than just one person who suffered loss or one person who was harmed, but it extends to the families and other people who were harmed as well,” he said.
The unveiling of the 2019 quilt had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to its display in this year’s ceremony. There are nine patches for nine victims, while in 2020, that number jumped to 15. That’s not the full number of victims from these years, as some are not yet ready, but quilt designer Juanita Coelho says it can be therapeutic, albeit difficult, to sum up their loved ones’ lives with just a few inches on a cloth square.
A retired nurse in Hanford, Coelho didn’t know about Victims’ Rights Week or the ceremony until 1998 when her son, Aaron, was tragically shot and killed by his sister-in-law’s ex-husband. The previous designer, Pat Davis, was a good friend of hers until she passed away, at which point Coelho took up the sewing needle. She has designed 15 quilts since then.
“The definition of victims is far and wide. It is broader than just one person who suffered loss or one person who was harmed, but it extends to the families and other people who were harmed as well,” she said.