Remembrance Day has always been meaningful to 89-year-old Evelyn Graves.
“I always went to the cenotaph and took my children, as long as I was able to do that,” she tells Global News.
“I’ve had a lot of family involved in the military, and I have a son right now that’s in Camp Hill because of his work with the military and it’s very important for everybody to remember.”
That is why, when the Oakwood Terrace Nursing Home resident was approached by staff about helping to create a special Remembrance Day art display, she was “very excited.”
“Several of our residents here helped with it. I did quite a few poppies myself, but there were so many people that helped, people from outside that volunteered. I can’t even imagine how many people helped, but they certainly did a fantastic job,” Graves says.
Residents, their family members, volunteers and those in the community all contributed to the project — a massive display of more than 2,000 knit and crocheted poppies, which took many hours and nearly one year to complete. The project was inspired by a similar display created by a church in Calgary last year.
“We thought, living in a city with a strong military presence, that Halifax would be a good city to launch a similar project,” said Chantal Beaulieu, Oakwood Terrace Nursing Home recreation programer.
While work on the poppy display began pre-pandemic, Beaulieu says this year has been a “fitting” one to launch the project.
“Of course, with COVID-19, there’s been a lot of isolation and our volunteers haven’t been able to come inside since March,” she says.
“So this has been a great outlet to keep our volunteers and our residents still connected, along with the family members that have been contributing as well.”
Marie George, a longtime volunteer at the nursing home agrees, saying this year has been very difficult on her and fellow volunteers.
“It’s been terrible. You can’t see people. You know that they’re on the inside wanting to see you and we’re on the outside wanting to see them and we just can’t connect. This was a way of bridging that gap,” George says.
She says this project is also a way to help residents and volunteers honour those who sacrificed for our freedom in their own unique way, for a Remembrance Day that will be like no other.
“Many of us are in the age group that we know people who have been in the military, we know people who are veterans, we know that they need to be remembered, and this was our way of trying to help each and every one of them.”
The display was up at the nursing home for a few days before being moved to Sullivan’s Pond Park in Dartmouth, where it will stay until Nov. 11.
Graves hopes that when the community sees the labour of love, they will take a moment to reflect.
“As we think back to those days, because I lived through them, it’s really good to know that our young people are being taught the significance of (the poppy),” she says.
“It’s something that we must always remember.”