Why a woman in Thunder Bay created this 'poppy tree' as a way to honour veterans this Remembrance Day

Thunder Bay's Nancy McKercher hugs the poppy tree in her front yard. She crocheted 300 poppies and pinned them to the tree in her yard.   (Gord Ellis/CBC - image credit)
Thunder Bay's Nancy McKercher hugs the poppy tree in her front yard. She crocheted 300 poppies and pinned them to the tree in her yard. (Gord Ellis/CBC - image credit)

If you walk near Thornloe Park on Thunder Bay's south side today, you will see a tree on the street that stands out from all the rest. The tree is covered with large red poppies — 300 to be exact — each one hand crocheted by Nancy McKercher.

McKercher said crocheting all the poppies wasn't her idea, and that it came from a project that began in southern Ontario.

"A friend of mine from Cambridge said she was crocheting poppies during COVID-19 for the Cambridge Poppy project," said McKercher. She was informed the Cambridge Poppy Project had a target of 10,000 poppies.

McKercher said she didn't know how many she could manage but agreed to do what she could. "So I started crocheting, but I didn't get very far," she said. "Last year I only made about 100, but I was able to cover the tree at the front of our yard."

This year McKercher decided she would crochet enough to cover the whole tree trunk. The result is a striking array of blood red crocheted poppies stuck to the tree trunk with pins.

Gord Ellis/CBC
Gord Ellis/CBC

McKercher said the first thing that comes into her mind when she thinks of Remembrance Day is the word freedom. Her mom lived through the Japanese invasion of China in the Second World War and father fought against communists during the Chinese revolution in 1949.

"To this day they had a very hard time speaking about what they've gone through," she said.

 

McKercher said on the Remembrance Day she will be thinking about her dad who passed away two years ago and what he did.

She said she would also be thinking about her friend Trudy McKinnon-Daniher.

"Her dad was always a big influence on me," she said. "So I have named the tree after Hector McKinnon."

McKercher hopes to expand the poppy tree next year and hopes other people in Thunder Bay will join in on the idea as well. She says she has already started crocheting extra poppies for Remembrance Day 2023.

"We can't forget," she said. "All the people, the military, the personnel and everybody who took part to fight for our freedom. We have to remember."