Meeting An Angel

Video courtesy of Jane Moody Sheppard – I owe you one lady!

**IN HONOR OF WORLD WILDLIFE DAY — BE THE VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS**

Every once in a while, if you’re lucky, God reveals the existence of angels to you, and I was blessed to encounter one when I had the great honor of meeting Stefanie Powers in New York City on November 30, 2019. Most people know her  for her portrayal of the iconic Jennifer Hart in the 1980’s series Hart to Hart but fewer know of her philanthropic work in memory of her beloved partner, William Holden, with whom she spent nearly a decade before his tragic passing in 1981. His legacy of conservation was a bonding force in their relationship and was ironically born from his passion for hunting — the horrified revulsion he felt after killing an antelope while on safari forever changed his outlook on the natural world.  Mr. Holden never hunted again, choosing instead to focus on creating rescue and breeding programs which would protect Kenya’s most vulnerable wildlife. After the Mount Kenya Game Ranch opened, the results of his efforts were evident, especially regarding white zebras and the nearly extinct mountain bongo. These endangered creatures flourished away from the violence inflicted upon them by poachers and those who would exploit the land for development, but rescue and preservation was only part of the equation. Mr. Holden knew that saving animals was futile work without educating the populace on how to peaceably coexist with nature; sadly he passed away before he could fulfill his ultimate goal, but in 1982, Ms. Powers realized his dream when she created the William Holden Wildlife Foundation and Education Center as a “living memorial” to the man she loved. Approximately 11,000 students a year vist and learn about alternative fuel sources, water reclamation, composting and other environmentally friendly practices. More importantly, however, they are able to interact with wildlife in an up-close-and-personal, intimate manner that they might not otherwise experience. I believe this is the most crucial aspect of the Foundation’s mission, for if it’s true that seeing is believing, these children will leave having had as transformative an experience as Mr. Holden did all those years ago. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that his spirit lives on in Kenya and that from the other side he is still encouraging those who continue to fight the good fight every day.

So, you’re probably wondering by now how I fit into this grand legacy. Let me assure you, it’s in a very small, even minuscule way. To be honest, this time last year, I’d never watched an episode of Hart to Hart that I could remember, though I had a vague recollection of my parents watching it when I was little (I was five when it premiered). I was going through a particularly rough patch when my husband introduced me to the show on the Hallmark Channel – it may sound cheesy, but watching Jennifer and Jonathan solve crimes in high style gave me something to look forward to and smile about at a time when not much else did. Eventually I broke down and subscribed to Audible and began listening attentively to Ms. Powers’ memoir, One From The Hart, devouring every syllable of her life’s journey as though I was by her side on all her adventures. At the same time, a photograph showed up in my Instagram feed which set me on my own unexpected journey of love and healing, and I still can’t believe it ended where it did.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary on 8/25/19 the only way I knew how –stitching and watching the pilot!

The photo was from one of the myriad of cross stitchers I follow and showed her progress on a piece called Alphabet Zoo which was designed by Belinda Karls-Nace. It was as though I was looking at a pictorial representation of Ms. Powers’ life and I was stunned. A tiny, seemingly crazy voice in my head whispered “you could stitch this for her in honor of the Foundation and Mr. Holden.” The rational, loud voice in my head screamed, “are you serious? what the hell?” Somehow, the siren call of the pattern together with my newfound admiration and love for Ms. Powers won the day, and my husband came home to find me stash diving through copious amounts of fabric and thread. When I told him what I planned to do, he was so supportive – if he thought I was as crazy as I felt like I was, he never showed it, and I love him even more for that. For the next four months, I steadfastly stitched on nothing but Alphabet Zoo while I listened to the book, and along the way, I found my emotional wounds starting to heal. I stitched the horses around the time she tweeted about her new rescue pony, and I finished the elephants just before her heart-wrenching tweet about the Asian ivory trade. I struggled through some parts and made many mistakes, some of which were fixable and some of which weren’t.

I had planned to somehow send it to Ms. Powers for her birthday, but of course the best laid plans never quite go the way we expect them to, as I learned from her stories about the mishaps and stumbling blocks that come with a life lived in many ports of call around the world. But as was true with her life story, my plan B turned out much better than I ever expected. She was staring in an off Broadway play last year, and hey, I’m in western Massachusetts, New York City isn’t that far away. I’ve driven in Boston, so I can drive anywhere, right? Exactly! My husband and I rented a luxury car, stayed in a gorgeous hotel and on the night of November 30, 2019, we walked down to the 59E59 Theater and after an amazing 80 minutes, we met her. I was so nervous I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to say anything, but somehow I found my voice. We spoke briefly, but in that moment, it was as if we’d known each other forever. When she told me she would find a way to take the cross stitch to Kenya, I was stunned, but it didn’t really dawn on me until recently just how profound a statement that was. I have it on good authority that Alphabet Zoo is now on display at the Education Center, and it still hasn’t completely sunk in — since that fateful meeting last November, I’ve listened to her memoir again and found a beautiful documentary on YouTube in which she introduces us to the people and wildlife that give the Foundation its heart and soul. When I think of the incredible meaning this place has, and I know that a part of my heart is there, I get chills. I still can’t wrap my mind around having a cross stitch I created on another continent! I know there might be some cynics out there who think I did this for self-aggrandizement or to have an “in” with someone famous, but I can assure you, that was the furthest thing from my mind. For nearly 30 years, I’ve stitched many projects, and about 98% of them have been gifts; only truly special people get a cross stitch from me, and when you do, it’s a sign of utmost love and respect. Every X will remain long after I’m gone and if I can somehow help people learn to respect the natural world through my chosen craft, I am honored and extremely humbled to play my part.

6 thoughts on “Meeting An Angel

  1. Thank you so much for sharing, Jen. This was a loving tribute to a couple of warm people working to the good of our planet. Your Alphabet Zoo stitching in homage is wonderful.

  2. Jennie , I never thought I would meet a sweeter person then you. The cross stitch you made for Stefanie is by far from your heart. God bless you.

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