Bear Necessities

Written by Judy Harper Category: Lifestyle Issue: March 2018
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Phoenix retiree June Rector crafts personalized Teddy bears out of heirloom furs.

photo by Angelina AragonWhat to do with that heirloom mink stole of Grandma’s you’ll never wear? June Rector has made a business of turning sentimental furs into keepsake Teddy bears that tie generations together.

A Valley resident since 1961, Rector was a longtime quilter and often made Teddy bears to match the quilts from well-remembered skirts, jackets, children’s clothes, golf pants and even a Navy uniform. When a friend inquired if the seamstress could make a bear from a mink vest she no longer wore, Rector accepted the challenge. Word about the bear quickly spread, and mink coats, Tasmanian pelts and other furs came out of storage and into the practiced hands of the Teddy bear tailor.

The petite 92-year-old has since created about 500 bears from nostalgic furs. Each takes about 10 hours to make and costs a flat rate of $200. A small bear (13 inches high when seated) requires about one yard of fur. Scraps are used to create patchwork bears of contrasting colors, many of which have been donated to local charities for silent auctions. Rector cautions that the bears are somewhat fragile. “They will tear because the leather is usually so thin,” she says. “I tell people they are not for young children – they are meant to be hugged, not played with.”

Rector says that while the mix-and-match bears are her favorites, she does not become attached to the stuffed animals. “The side effect for me is that it is so rewarding when I deliver them,” she says. “Some people get tears in their eyes because the mink might have been their mother’s or grandmother’s, and it brings back a lot of memories. The payoff for me is that I make a lot of people happy.”

June Rector
Call 602-281-2177 to set up an in-person consultation.