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Like manna from heaven, button necklaces nourish a familys spirit
L4VQ Screen shot 2015 04 22 at 10.24.31 AM

A Dawsonville woman has transformed old glass jars filled with buttons into one-of-a-kind family heirlooms, now spread across seven states and dozens of family members.

My mom died 12 years ago, and in the closet she had jars and tins filled with old buttons, Dawson resident Michelle Skinner said. I was trying to think of something to do with them that would honor her memory, and my grandmothers, and to carry those memories from one generation to the next.

Skinner was shopping with her daughter last summer when she saw an unusual button necklace.

Thats when it hit her.

That necklace caught my attention, so I bought it and used it as a model, she said.

A former journalist who has lived in Dawson County since 1993, Skinner started making button necklaces for family members.

I think memories are a familys most precious treasure, Skinner said. A single button isnt going to do it, but when you transform many buttons into a keepsake, it can be passed from generation to generation. Its my way of keeping the memories alive, and hopefully making our family closer.

Sisters, grand-nieces, and cousins have all received their gifts just in time for Easter.

Im going back to Wisconsin for Easter, and I cant wait to see everyone wearing their necklaces,

Skinner made the necklaces in secret and included a note inside each envelope that was sent out last week to family members.

The note read in part: LaVerne Magadance of Eau Claire, WI, was born March 21, 1920 and would be 95-years-old if she was still with us. Today she is in heaven celebrating her birthday with Uncle Jim at her side. A part of each of them is still with us, here in this button necklace. I just wanted to surprise everyone, she said.

Skinners mother, LaVerne Magadance (pronounced Mag-a-dance), and her grandmother Julie Clark spent a lot of time sewing and crocheting.

I come from a big family, five boys and five girls, and we always wore hand-me-downs. We camped together, went to church together, and I have a lot of fun family memories. My dad had a stroke when I was in high school, and he couldnt speak. My mom cared for him for 17 years, on her own. She never spent money. Things were just handed down from one generation to the next. My mom died when she was 82.

Skinners button collection included some from her Grandma Clark.

She was a full-blooded Norwegian who smoked a pipe and loved to sew and crochet, Skinner said.

When I found tidbits of fabric still stuck in the button holes, I knew these were women never threw anything away. And, it rubbed off on me. Im a bargain hunter.

Last summer, Skinner lost her brother, Jim Magadance.

With the loss of our first sibling, it made us all aware of our own mortality, she said quietly. And in the same way, it drives home the importance of family. As time passes, and we all get older, the necklaces we wear around our neck represent the bond of family at least thats what Im hoping for.