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Local effort marks 100th anniversary of the poppy

Beth Schlueter is looking for others to help with Wellesley project marking the 100th anniversary of the poppy as a sympbol of remembrance. [Damon MacLean]

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the poppy as the flower of remembrance. In recognition of that milestone, a group of Wellesley Township women is spearheading the creation – sewn or crotched – of hundreds of poppies for a large outdoor display in time for Remembrance Day.

Drawing on John McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields,’ the poppy emerged as a symbol to be distributed on Armistice Day as a way to raise money for veterans’ needs and to remember those who fell in the First World War. In July 1921, the Great War Veterans Association, which in 1925 would unify with other groups to form the Canadian Legion, adopted the poppy as the flower of remembrance.

The local effort is being led by Beth Schlueter and Barb Nowak, who are asking others to join the project.

The idea to honour fallen heroes came following a similar nod made by some of the team in 2020, said Schlueter.

“It started last summer, actually, when I started crocheting poppies for a small display at the Linwood cenotaph because that’s the only cenotaph in Wellesley Township,” she explained.

Schlueter began creating poppies by hand, recruiting her friend Barb Nowak who suggested the duo create more and eventually lined them up into a display that was placed at the cenotaph. Seventy-five poppies were made to honour 75 years since the end of the Second World War.

Riding on the former project’s success, the two decide to create a follow-up project for this year, this time recognizing 100 years of the poppy as a memorial symbol running under the name the ‘Wellesley Township Poppy Project,’ recruiting the help of Wendy Richardson and Karen Schlueter-Pilecki. The group plans to select a central location in Wellesley Township to have the massive display viewable from the road, so it may not be at the Linwood cenotaph this time around.

“We hope to have hundreds is what we started out saying. We wanted 100 poppies because it’s the 100th year, but now we want hundreds of poppies to make a really noticeable display. We are planning at the moment that it will be an outside artistic display.” 

Before launching the 2021 project, the group sought the approval of the Royal Canadian Legion. The volunteers are now encouraging anyone interested in participating to stitch or crochet their own poppy. While materials are not being supplied, they recommended that synthetic material be used so that the flowers will be able to withstand the November weather, said Schlueter

Those who submit poppies are asked to label the bag with their names and the number of items inside. People from outside of the township can also submit their own creations as well, she notes.

Schlueter has thus far made 94 of her own, but the number is nowhere near the end goal she is hoping to reach.

“We want to do something that will be inclusive of the entire township, not just, say, the ladies of Wellesley kind of thing – we want it to be inclusive of the entire township.” said Schlueter, adding that if people wish to recognize individuals who have served, there will be a future announcement about that aspect.

More information on the project, including the announcement of drop-off locations, can be found on the Wellesley Township Poppy Project’s Facebook group. For now, poppies can be dropped off at 29 Welwood Ave. in Wellesley village.

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