While a large group of volunteers were busy knitting or crocheting to help drape the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum and the Queen Street Court House with thousands of poppies, Pam Mundy undertook a project to recognize the local men from Niagara-on-the-Lake who sacrificed their lives in the First and Second World Wars.
The long-time museum volunteer took on the task of the poppy garden, which started out last year with a small number of stakes with red blooms on them in an area to one side of the building’s main doors, meant to balance somewhat the beautiful red drape of poppies that swept down from the spire over the front door and across the lawn on the other side.
But there weren’t enough poppies in the garden last year to do it justice, says Mundy, and the plan was to make a larger, more impressive garden this year to recognize the 69 local men who died in the two wars.
“We decided to make extra poppies this year, and fill the entire left side of the yard. It has all the names that are on the cenotaphs, of all the soldiers from the NOTL area who died in the two World Wars,” says Mundy.
The first challenge was that the poppies and the cards with the soldiers’ names on them had to weather-proof, she says. The cards were not too difficult — Mundy created the design, and had them made by a printing company.
She also did a considerable amount of research for the proper fabric, and found one that would survive outdoors, and that was double-sided, red on both sides.
She explains an elaborate process she followed after she cut out each of the layers of poppies, to make them look more natural.
It involved her stove. “I had to experiment to find the perfect temperature to make the edges melt a little, and curl just the right amount,” she says.
She then used a black pompom, glued through the layers in the centre of the poppy, attached it to a bamboo stick and covered that with floral tape before sticking it in the ground.
The flowers, she says, “are a copy of the original poppy used many years ago. We had to keep them simple, for financial reasons.”
This year there are about 150 of them, including those with the soldiers’ name cards, which were designed and placed so they could be read by people on the sidewalk leading to the main door of the museum.
The poppies used last year, without cards, were for the most part in good condition and able to be re-used, says Mundy, “and we’re hoping these will hold up and be okay for next year.”
She’s confident the poppies will be fine, “but who knows what will happen to the cards. We’ve done the best we can think of, and if we need to replace them, we’ll make them again next year.”
She hopes people will read the names, ages and ranks of the soldiers who died, most between the ages of about 20 to 40, and think about them as real people who lived, fought and lost their lives for their country.
Mundy, now a period costume maker for many local events, grew up in Britain, and says several members of her family fought in the First and Second World Wars, and the Gulf War. They all survived, she says, and she remembers her brothers talking to each other about their war experiences.
She was a police officer in Britain during the Irish Republican Army uprising and Palestine Liberation Organization conflicts, and has been a first responder in emergencies. Making the poppies gave her time to think, she says, about her own experiences and that of her family members who served, “being close to so much death, and how fortunate they were to come home.”
The poppy garden project is a good reminder of those who were not so fortunate.