Early this year, I learned that 2021 is the 100th anniversary of wearing the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance in Canada. That was the impetus for an idea that I shared with three other women who were also keen to initiate a new project in our township as a way to recognize and honour Veterans and to remember their sacrifices. Our committee members are: Beth Schlueter, Karen Pilecki, Wendy Richardson and Barb Nowak.
After seeing projects that other municipalities have undertaken, we decided to ask for 100 knitted or crocheted poppies to use in a creative display at a central place in the township in November.
In mid-March, we made a Facebook page called “Wellesley Township Poppy Project,” with information for people who wanted to participate. We felt that this project for the whole township was also a way to develop unity in the communities.
In early September, we presented our project idea to Wellesley Township council to receive approval for our proposal. After hearing about our plans, the council approved and also said that they would assist in ways that we needed.
Three of us have been at the Wellesley market every Saturday since June with examples of crocheted and knitted poppies, instructions on how to make them and a donation jar to cover material expenses such as paint, hardware and cable ties that we would need for the display. After we cover costs, whatever is left will be donated to the Legion.
The display is sizable, as the plan includes a wooden form, frame and lights. Fortunately, Home Hardware gave us sheets of plywood and Jantzi Electric donated the lights to accent the final display. Our silhouettes were cut for us by Brendon Fitzgerald who works at Artco in St. Clements. We have also had structural advice for our plans from Wellesley resident, Dave Underwood, who facilitated all aspects of the physical installation. We are grateful for his help and expertise.
By the beginning of October, 2,055 knit or crocheted poppies were given to us from folks all over the township. All of these contributions from individuals and businesses are true examples of “Community Unity”.
We hosted a “Tie One On” event in mid-October when we did just that – tied each poppy onto netting with cable ties. This netting with the poppies was then draped onto the structure.
We are so pleased to have a variety of poppies that people have crafted and many were sent to us with a special memory or family story to go with them.
For example, Shaeron Newark completed 100 poppies in honour of the men in her family who fought in WW1 and WW2 and the women who supported them. In particular, Shaeron’s grandfather, Daniel Kelly, was wounded at Vimy Ridge and her uncle, Desmond Kelly, fought at Juno Beach.
Beth Schlueter had five uncles serving overseas during WWII, one of whom was killed in the Netherlands during the liberation.
Wendy Richardson’s parents were born in Holland. Her dad was a prisoner of war alongside his brother before they escaped the German army. Her mom’s family lived in a highly active war zone and at one point, they hid Canadian soldiers.
Barb Nowak had 11 family members who served during both World Wars. An uncle was killed at Passchendaele in 1917. Barb’s dad served in Holland, Belgium and France with the Algonquin Regiment of Canada and was captured in Holland in October, 1944. He spent the rest of the war as a POW at a stalag in Germany.
Margit and Mike Fritsch are first-generation Canadians whose families immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. They heard lots of stories from relatives about their plight during the war, staying in refugee camps, and how they finally came to Canada.
Legion rules determine when the project can be displayed and when it has to be dismantled. Therefore, the unveiling of our project is on October 28 at the Wellesley Township Offices, (4639 Lobsinger Line, St. Clements) as we deemed this to be a central location. The structure will be dismantled on November 12.
We invite all to visit the installation. Parking is available on the township lot.
Educational resources can be found from the Royal Canadian Legion, www.legion.ca.
Thank you to Wellesley Township council and staff for this opportunity to remember the sacrifices of previous generations and, especially, a huge thanks to all of the people who contributed poppies for us to use.
This is a task of love and respect to remember and honour the men and women who served so that we can live the way that we do today in this beautiful land.