WALKERTON – A community group consisting mostly of members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 102, Walkerton has fine-tuned plans to place small rocks painted with the poppy symbol of remembrance on the grave stone of each veteran in Walkerton’s two cemeteries.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the selection of the poppy as the symbol of remembrance. The group started with a few painted rocks, then decided to include all veterans buried in the local public cemetery and Catholic cemetery. The number was 385 as of last week’s meeting at the cemetery but continues to climb as more families step forward with records of loved ones who served.
Often, women’s military service was not recorded in obituaries. In the past few days, the names of three women who served have been added to the list.
Thanks to meticulous research (by Clarence Kieffer), some genealogy (Jan Briggs-McGowan), and a lot of hard work, the cemeteries have been mapped out and graves of veterans identified.
In the days leading up to Canada Day, the rocks will be placed. Briggs-McGowan said the committee would like to see families involved – they’ll be able to pick up a poppy rock and place it themselves, on Monday or Tuesday, June 28 or 29, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. A committee member will be at the chapel in the public cemetery with the rocks.
Families who are unable to make it during those times are invited to call 519-881-7304 or 519-881-2612 to make special arrangements.
On Wednesday, June 30, the rest of the stones will be placed by committee members – no veteran will be forgotten. That’s what this project is all about.
On Canada Day – Thursday, July 1 – poppy rocks will be placed at the cenotaph.
Any remaining rocks will be placed by committee members on Friday, July 2.
The logistics of the project have presented some challenges – some grave stones are not suited to having a small rock placed on them. Then there’s the columbarium. In all cases, the challenges have been overcome and suitable arrangements have been made.
Some families will be picking up “their veteran’s” stone to take home after Canada Day; some will be left on the grave stones. But no one will be forgotten.
Although most of the committee members are also members of the Legion, Briggs-McGowan stresses that this is not a Legion project, it is a community project.
The Legion is holding a special ceremony on community July 5, 1 p.m. at Calvary Cemetery.
The poppy rocks are not being sold, notes Briggs-McGowan. Some families have asked about making a donation, and the committee suggests doing so through the Legion branch, to the Poppy Fund.
Money from this fund is used in many ways to help veterans and their survivors. For more information about the Poppy Fund, please contact the Legion branch.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times