It’s a labour of love that came full circle for Morgan DeWolfe last November.
And this Remembrance Day will mark a quarter of a century that she has been showing love and respect to veterans in her own special way.
For the past 25 years, the Boyles Road, Hillside, resident has been visiting the graves of local veterans on Remembrance Day to place a poppy or two at the site.
Last year, she was joined on her journey by her two step-daughters, who were ages 10 and 7 at the time.
“They were drilling the questions to me about what I was doing and why I was doing it. I had them place some of the poppies for me. It was very special and it was like a throwback to when I was a little girl and first started the project with my dad. It was a real teaching moment.”
DeWolfe first started her project at the Hillside Cemetery, not too far away from where she grew up. She was only two years old at the time and she recalls her dad taking her by the hand and walking with her through the cemetery to place a few poppies.
Now, she visits cemeteries across the county and places hundreds of poppies to honour veterans. She laughs and shakes her head when asked how many poppies she has placed over the years and says, “Literally thousands.”
When she first started the project her grandfather Benjamin “Benny” Boyles — one of five brothers who were all in the Second World War – was still living. “They were always special to me and it was my way of honouring them and paying my respects and showing our appreciation for them. My uncle, Fraser Boyles, is the only surviving brother.”
Today, more than a decade since her grandfather passed away, she tears up when she visits his grave and kneels to stick two bright red poppies into the soil beside his marble gravemarker.
She recalls being fraught with emotion on the first Remembrance Day that he was gone and she was placing the poppies beside his grave marker.
“It was definitely emotional because growing up, I used to see him and the other veterans at the Remembrance Day ceremony marching to the cenotaph from the Legion and they’d all be dressed with all of their medals pinned to the front of their jackets. Then one year, all of a sudden, I didn’t see that. It was hard, for sure.”
But it strengthened her resolve to not stop what she was doing.
The poppies are all acquired from the Legion and she adapts them by attaching them to wooden skewers that will penetrate the earth easily and stick up from the soil, making the flowers stand straight and tall, in a similar fashion to real poppy blooms.
“When I was little, my dad and I would cut old, metal coat hangers and attach the poppies to them. Over the years we’ve found other options that are a little quicker. My dad still helps me do this and he still comes with me every year to the cemeteries,” she smiles.
This year, DeWolfe is saddened by the knowledge that there will not be any public gatherings at cenotaphs on Remembrance Day in keeping with Public Health restrictions due to COVID-19. “Even though COVID has changed a lot of things this year I hope people still get out to visit a cenotaph on Remembrance Day and take a few moments to pay their respects. These veterans have gone through a lot for a lot of things that some of us take for granted.”
For her part she says, “We’ll still buy a cross and I’ll still do the poppies. I’ll still get to do the normal things that I always do on Remembrance Day.
She notes, “I’ve done it this long, and it’s probably just something I will continue to do.”
Morgan DeWolfe bends to place a poppy at the grave site of her grandfather, Benjamin “Benny” Boyles. DeWolfe has been placing poppies in Pictou County cemeteries for a quarter of a century. (Jardine photo)