Freddy Duffy Moran had the spirit of an artist, a courage forged in parental abuse, the attitude of a rogue, and a rebellious eye for color and design.

     When we met years ago, she was a dedicated quilter, a silver-haired grandma with five grown sons.   She had just published “Freddy’s House.” It was a book about the art of quilting and the meaning behind it.        Although it took years for the conservative quilting society to accept the works of this avant-guard fellow quilter, it finally embraced her accomplishments. In some cases, with open arms.

     Freddy had the attitude of a prize-fighter who has come off the ropes from a violent childhood to defeat that merciless brute we all know as Adversity. Unlike any quilter I have known, she looked at quilting as pure art. The materials she worked with were color and fabric designs that appealed to her. She refused to be controlled by critics.

     Working from patterns, she said, was “stifling. I put my own stamp on anything I create. My soul goes into my quilts. This is not like painting by numbers. In every area of art there are crafts people and there are artists. I am simply not a crafts person. I am an artist.”

     Passion, she added, was what “drives us, what separates us from the ho-hum people. It is the difference between walking through a day and skipping through a day. I have faced my share of critics. Jealousy can destroy an artist. Some creative people can’t cope with destructive criticism.”

     Freddy, who with her husband, Neil, a retired marketing executive, lived in Orinda, California, near San Francisco.  Doing quilts over the past 20 years has been like a spiritual experience for me,” she said.   “My focus is on the joy of color. That feeling goes into my quilts. Whether it’s the image of a house or an abstract design, it doesn’t make a difference. When I start a piece, I never consider where I’m headed.

     “I take risks. Push the envelope, so to speak. I use outrageous combinations of conflicting colors like orange and vivid fuchsia, green and bold aqua.”  In fabric stores and quilt shops, she admitted that she zealously searched for designs that depart from the norm. She confessed that she was “a sucker for polka dots. 

     “If I like the way the colors and blocks are going,” she said, “I just giggle to myself.” She was convinced that her creations reflected the soul of a very happy and introspective human being who’s survived whatever life could throw at her.

     Yet, there was a dark side to the artist. Vividly, she recalled her first childhood memory: “I was four years old. I had hand sewn a pink dress for my Patsy doll. I was thrilled when I brought it to my mother. Her name was Ruth. She was a very talented watercolorist and did needle craft.

     “She was in the living room seated at her sewing machine next to the French doors.

     “When I showed her my dress, she went into a rage, snatched it from me, tore it up, and screamed, ‘This is no good!’ Crying hysterically, I ran to a neighbor’s house.”

     From that unforgettable moment until her daughter-in-law, Lynn Duryee, coaxed her into attending a quilting class at the age of sixty, Freddy refused to sew or even work with thread.  

“My mother was an alcoholic addicted to prescription drugs. She never kissed or hugged me or told me that she loved me. Throughout my teens, she’d beat me across the back with a coat hanger or an umbrella. When she came at me with scissors, or threw a butcher knife, I became an expert at jumping out the window.” Freddy laughed as if the pain was meaningless.

“But my mother couldn’t kill my spirit,” she went on. “My dad, Jerome, was an alcoholic, too. He was a lawyer in our hometown, San Rafael. He drank himself out of the profession. But I loved him. He had a great sense of humor. He would always tell me how pretty I was, and that he loved me. When I asked him why he married my mother, he said, ‘Because she was so beautiful.'” Again, Freddy smiled at the memory.

She met Neil when she was 12 and he was 13. In 1952 when she was 21 and he was drafted in the army, they were married in El Paso, Texas.

“I took what life dealt me and turned it into a positive,” said Freddy, a graduate of Dominican College in San Rafael where she majored in art. “Instead of sitting back and saying, ‘Poor me,’ the abuse made me strong. For that reason alone, I am grateful.”

Following this interview, I’m sorry to say: I never saw Freddy Duffy Moran again.  But her quilting/philosophy book was a success.


          — Boots LeBaron —

(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is available on

Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. Although

there is an art section, this story is not

included in this book of interviews, poetry

and essays about and the adventures of life)

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