Losing a loved one is never easy. The grieving and sadness that follows are almost unbearable, and one Somerset woman aims to console those in mourning with a special teddy bear that is stitched with articles of clothing from the person who has passed.

Tammy Ruggeri is a Somerset resident who loves crafting. Last year, she put her name on a waiting list to join a quilting class. Soon after her start with quilting, her father was diagnosed with lung cancer. She spent every weekend traveling to Syracuse to visit her father and was thankful for her new hobby of quilting because it kept her grounded during a tumultuous time.

Her father passed, and while she mourned, she knew she wanted to continue her quilting and give back to others who may have lost someone.

“I promised to take my time and donate to children who needed something," she said.

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Her quilting journey started off by making pillows, until one day a lady requested a tiny blanket for her baby who was suffering from spina bifida.

Ruggeri was incredibly inspired and continued to make blankets for babies in need. But then, another woman asked her to make a teddy bear out of her child’s pajamas.

“I had never done a teddy bear before, but I said I would try. Her one request turned into 13 teddy bears," she said.

The demand for the sentimental teddy bears skyrocketed, and since November of 2020,  Ruggeri continues to make these bears for anyone who wants to get a little closer to someone they have lost. Puddle Jumper Quilting and Crafts was born, thanks to her daughter creating a logo and her daughter-in-law creating a Facebook page. Ruggeri plans on making teddy bears for as long as her hands will let her.

I asked her how it felt to bring a loved one back to life.

“It’s comforting,” she said. “It gives you a warm feeling from your toes to the top of your head. Especially the way they hold it and the way they hug it. I can’t even express the look on their faces when they get their teddy bear.”

My heart was so full as I listened to Ruggeri express her passion for her work. It seems like a small gesture to turn Vavo’s sweater or Dad’s shirt into a teddy bear, but for that family, it becomes a comforting reminder that our loved ones never truly leave us. Their memory lives on.

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