The People of Pancho

At Play In The Archive

Heirloom Love

Happy Sunday, People. This busy weekend was mostly devoid of genealogy and writing time, but I wanted to share the results of a project I’ve been working on for a while. I’m so delighted with how it turned out.

After my grandmother, Katherine Adams Lessiack, passed away, I came into possession of a pair of oak Danish Modern chairs that had a lot of happy associations from early childhood, when my great-grandfather Leo was still living. Here we are, sitting in one of those chairs.

On the back of the photo in my grandmother's hand: "Early March, 1973." I'm on the left, and my cousin Jenny is on the right.

On the back of the photo in my grandmother’s hand: “Early March, 1973.” I’m on the left, great-grandpa Leo is in the center, and my cousin Jenny is on the right.

And, here you can see one of the chairs themselves a little bit better.


The interior of my grandparents’ house in Balboa Heights on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal Zone. Great-grandpa Leo lived in New Jersey, but often came for extended visits to the Canal Zone when I was a little girl.

By the time the chairs came to me in the summer of 2012, the brown cushions had been replaced with cushions covered in a very 1970’s goldenrod yellow, no doubt very stylish when my grandmother picked it out, but now much stained and worn with use. When I got them back to California, I tried dyeing the covers in my washing machine, but the result was a perfectly ghastly baby-poop greenish brown. So much for that, though we did live with it for longer than I care to admit. Also, the cushions inside the now-hideous covers desperately need to be replaced, as did the webbing on the chair frame underneath them.

I replaced the webbing myself, which was not all that difficult, but the cushions required professional help. This turned out to be much more costly than I expected. So, I saved my pennies for a couple of years (this project is a model of delayed gratification), my aunt Toni contributed two very nice inner-spring seat cushions that fit perfectly, and then I ordered custom foam for the backs, which are an unusual tapered shape and consequently not a candidate for anything off the shelf. But what to cover them with?

Even cushion covers are expensive, People. After collecting a few bids, I realized that we would live with these covers for a very long time. I became paralyzed with indecision. Will this fabric look dated in a few short years? Will I get sick of of that pattern? Will the fabric withstand the vicissitudes of dog and cat use? (The dog wouldn’t dare when we are home, but when we’re not, all bets are off.) Then, I came across this pattern:


“That looks for all the world like a mola,” I thought. Molas are the extraordinary and spectacular handiwork of the indigenous Kuna people of Panama. Like many Zonians, I have a large collection of molas and a very special place for them in my heart.

Lo and behold, the name of the pattern turned out to be Sunbrella “Kuna Sand” — it was meant to be! Sunbrella is a nearly indestructible fabric meant for outdoor use, so it would stand up to pet abuse. The pattern wouldn’t ever look dated because molas are timeless, and I knew I wouldn’t get sick of it because I’m a mola nut from way back. Perfect! So, I bit the bullet, wrote the check, and waited.

Ta da.


Two years in the making, but I’m so very happy with the result. I think that Grandma Kathi, Grandpa Bob, and Great-grandpa Leo would be too. It’s a modern look, but a nod to our Panama heritage as well. These are very special chairs, so it was worth the wait to get them just right.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, dear People.

2 comments on “Heirloom Love

  1. Brandy Heineman
    August 12, 2014

    I enjoyed this! You have a wonderful writing voice. 🙂


    • Pancho
      August 12, 2014

      Thank you–what a nice thing to say.


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This entry was posted on August 10, 2014 by in Adams People, Asides, Lessiack People and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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