EAST TEXAS (KYTX) -- For more than 30 years, a Winona woman has been helping East Texans remember their family members. Sheriff J.B. Smith takes us inside her workshop to show us how a stuffed animal gives people something to hold onto.
"They tell me their habits, share what they did, their favorite stories, before I start on it, I know a lot about the person like I knew them myself, I almost fell like I lost them."
Pat Schlau is in the business of creating memories.
"Something special about a teddy bear; hard to put your finger on it, they bring out something in people that a lot of things doesn't."
Customers bring in a clothing item from their loved one.
"The reason they wanted this shirt, it brought back memories, every time they went to see him, had this shirt on."
A sewing machine stands ready, but Pat prefers to stitch by hand.
Pat designs and sews the bears based on the fabric she's working with.
"Mink is probably most common, a lot of people had mink coats, not used anymore."
These mink bears were crafted for a Longview woman.
"Until the job is completed, she's very attached to it," Raenell Craft, Memory Bear customer said.
The inside of the coat had her mother's name; which Pat sewed on the bows. She also made the bears an apron from her mother's dress.
"Pat did a wonderful job incorporating the lining of the stole into the little paws, hands/feet of the bear."
Raenell displays the bears along with photos of her sisters.
"We were happy when we saw the result, very pleased," Craft said. "It really is a memory bear."
Most bears reflect someone's mother.
"It's times like this, sitting here sewing these up thinking about what this person did when they were wearing this fur," Pat said.
It is a calling to her rather than just a job.
"Your making something for someone that was special in someone's life."
Pat Schlau also repairs and restores dolls and toys. She plans to open an historic doll museum in Winona this Summer.