Walkerton Legion group ensures every veteran is remembered with unique project

·3 min read

WALKERTON - Royal Canadian Legion Branch 102, Walkerton has come up with a project to honour the memory of all veterans who are interred in Calvary Cemetery and Walkerton Public Cemetery, and to pay tribute to the symbol of remembrance that’s been dear to our hearts for a century – the poppy.

Jan Briggs-McGowan, Clarence Kieffer and committee (Roy Mullen, Joe Rys and Jon Critchfield) plus the caretakers of both cemeteries, and two Legion executive members, met at the Walkerton cemetery last week to discuss the Poppy Rock project.

The idea is to place a stone with a poppy painted on it, on the grave of each veteran – 371 of them, so far.

Briggs-McGowan said the project started modestly, but had to expand.

“Let’s make this a real project, and ensure no veteran is overlooked – we don’t care who,” she said.

She and the committee would like to hear from community members who know of other veterans in the cemetery. Kieffer’s research has been painstakingly thorough, using a variety of resources, but veterans may have been missed.

People should email walkertonlegion@wightman.ca and state any documentation they have to back their information. Or drop off contact information at the Walkerton Herald-Times office (stipulate “Poppy Rocks”) – mail is checked regularly although the office is closed for the duration of the provincial stay-at-home order.

The meeting at the cemetery provided an opportunity to sort out technical details regarding the placing of the poppy rocks so as not to cause problems with, for example, grass cutting, and do some brain-storming.

Keiffer described how he used news clippings, obituaries, government documents and other sources to conduct his research. Especially with graves that date back to when record-keeping was done by hand and was sometimes less than accurate, locating specific graves wasn’t easy. There are names on grave markers that are not listed in municipal records, and others that are not where they’re listed. Sometimes those responsible for the records took them home, and sometimes records were accidentally destroyed or misplaced.

Keiffer has organized his data according to the section of the cemetery.

Now comes the less complicated part of the project – placing the rocks. There was discussion about getting youngsters involved “in a positive way,” especially for placing the rocks on the graves of family members.

The rocks will be placed with respect, so no one is forgotten.

For Briggs-McGowan and the committee, the main thing is not overlooking anybody.

The committee will meet once again in June to hash out any remaining details.

100th anniversary of the poppy

According to legion.ca/remembrance/poppy-100-anniversary, the selection of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance has quite a history.

“Madame Anna Guérin, later christened ‘The Poppy Lady from France,’ inspired by John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, had an idea: to adopt the distribution of the poppy on Armistice Day as a way to raise money for veterans’ needs and to remember those who had given their lives during the First World War.

“In July of 1921 the Great War Veterans Association (which in 1925 would unify with other veteran groups to form the Canadian Legion) adopted the poppy as the flower of remembrance.

“Since then, the Legion and its members have upheld this tradition of remembrance.”

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times