Row on row the poppies blow at Court House and museum

Remembrance Day is a time to be thankful.

That’s what 11-year-old Nathaniel John Fee-Symonds said while he watched volunteers hang about 4,000 poppies Tuesday outside the historic Niagara-on-the-Lake Court House.

The poppies were hand-knit and crocheted by a team of 30 volunteers from the NOTL Museum.

“I think it’s amazing for a town this size,” said Nathanial's grandmother, Sandra Porteous.

“That's the nice thing about coming to a place like this. You can tell that people actually think about it,” she said.

Every Remembrance Day, Porteous’s husband brings out his father's war box from the Second World War.

“It was his father's navy chest. And every Remembrance Day we open it up and look at his medals, and all the different things and the photos,” she said.

While Porteous watched Tuesday, volunteers from the NOTL Museum and Davey Tree Expert Company unravelled the bundle of fabric poppies.

“There's so many women behind that are not on the scene that have been knitting and crocheting since last August,” said volunteer Nancy Macri.

The poppies were attached by twist ties to 14-foot sheets of netting.

Six of the sheets were hung from the Court House on Queen Street and the rest were strung from the NOTL Museum bell tower.

Last year was the first year for the Poppy Project, and the women who volunteered their time managed to knit and crochet 3,500 poppies.

After last year’s success, the team decided to expand the project this year.

“It's about remembering the deceased, who gave you and me what we have here,” Macri said.

With 4,000 poppies to make and 10 fewer less volunteers than the 40 from last year, the team had to start early.

Some of them began knitting as early as January.

The hanging poppies are the brainchild of project co-ordinator Barbara Worthy.

“It really is symbolizing the words lest we forget,” Worthy said outside the museum, looking up at the freshly hanging display of poppies.

Worthy’s great-grandfather and grandfather died in service to their country during the First and Second World Wars.

She’s not the only one who was commemorating a family member.

Terry Mactaggart remembers her father, who served as a bomber during the Second World War.

“He never talked about it,” she said.

Except for one time, where she remembers him “spilling his guts” to one of her brothers when he was asked to interview a veteran for an assignment.

She recalls finding a chest of photos from her father’s time in the service.

“His squadron was the first into Belsen and so the pictures were horrifying,” she said.

Most of the volunteers lament that family members didn’t talk much about their time at war. They didn’t want to remember.

“My dad was a vet and he died at 95 about four years ago,” said Janet Guy, a volunteer with the Poppy Project.

He didn’t talk about the war, she said. But when he was 17, he was eager to enlist, even though he had to wait until he was 18.

This year, the volunteers have also set up what they describe as a poppy garden.

The team created one handmade poppy for each of the 69 soldiers commemorated on the town cenotaph.

Pam Mundy, who came up with the idea for the garden, said she remembers all the men in her family who served.

The poppies have been staked into the museum’s front lawn along with the names and death dates of the town’s soldiers.

The display at the Court House and museum will be up until Nov. 13.

With files by Somer Slobodian.

Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report