It’s a day to remember.
In 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, Major General John A. Logan issued an order: Every May 30 would be a day to commemorate the fallen Civil War soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers – and so began Decoration Day, now called Memorial Day.
One flower in particular is associated with the day of remembrance. In May of 1915, John McCrae, a Canadian general and doctor, wrote the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields,” depicting the rows of white crosses with red poppies growing between them.
Following the publication of that work in 1918, American teacher Moina Michael wrote her own poem in response, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” committing to carry on the memory of fallen soldiers. Known as “The Poppy Lady,” Michael began the tradition of giving out poppies in remembrance and using them to raise money for veterans.
Jackie Norvell is Homer’s poppy lady. As a member of American Legion Post 16 Ladies’ Auxiliary, Norvell has been involved with the poppies for more than 10 years.
“I’ve sort of become the poppy chairperson,” says Norvell, whose husband is a veteran who served during the Vietnam War.
Prior to Memorial Day, Norvell takes poppies and donation cans to different businesses around Homer, raising money for veterans’ programs. This Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., volunteers will distribute poppies at Safeway. Most people give a dollar for a poppy, while others may give less or more. With donations totaling a little under $2,000, the poppy project is one of the legion’s biggest fundraisers.
When handing out poppies at Safeway, Norvell says that people will often stop and say if they are a veteran, or tell of a friend or family member who was.
“Many of them are very open about being a veteran,” she said. “And then others wonder what it’s all about and don’t have a clue.” So along with red paper poppies, volunteers have informational fliers on the poppy project and Memorial Day.
“I just think it’s a worthy cause to thank all the people for their service,” said Norvell.
Last weekend, along with five other volunteers from the post, Norvell and her husband placed flags and poppies on the graves of veterans at Homer’s Hickerson Memorial Cemetery. Norvell said that with all the flags placed, it was amazing to see how many veterans are interred at the Diamond Ridge cemetery.
Don Ridl is the commander of American Legion Post 16 in Homer and a veteran of the Vietnam War. He has been a member of the Legion for 33 years, 15 of those at the Homer post.
“It’s a day of remembering all of the veterans,” said Ridl. “It’s kind of a solemn thing.”
Ridl said that the post has about 185 members, and he guesses there are about 300 veterans in the area, all of whom are welcome to join.
One particular member was honored last Sunday for his long-standing commitment to the organization. Bob Turkington, a local World War II veteran who turns 92 this week, has been a member of the American Legion for 70 years.
Turkington’s son, Bruce Turkington, said that up until four months ago his father would drive himself to the American Legion almost daily. Now, family members volunteer to drive him.
“When you’re almost 92 … it gets real lonely,” said Turkington. By having a social place to go, Turkington said the legion gives his dad something to look forward to.
“He’s enjoyed being part of it,” said Turkington.
Besides being a place to gather with, and support fellow veterans, the post is responsible for Memorial Day ceremonies at the cemeteries in Homer, Anchor Point and Ninilchik.
“It’s attended – but not like it used to be,” said Ridl of the ceremonies. “It’s a changing world out there, you know.”
Ready to remember? Memorial Day ceremonies take place at the following times:
• Homer, Hickerson Memorial Cemetery, 10 a.m.
• Anchor Point, Kallman Cemetery, Noon.
• Ninilchik, American Legion Cemetery, 2 p.m.
* On May 11, 1950, Congress approved a resolution requesting the President to make a proclamation calling on people to observe Memorial Day as a day to pray for peace. The following is from President Harry S. Truman’s Proclamation 2889.
“Since war is the world’s most terrible scourge, we should do all in our power to prevent its recurrence…In recognition of this need, the Congress has fittingly provided, in a joint resolution which I approved on May 11, 1950, that Memorial Day, which has long been set aside for paying tribute to those who lost their lives in war, shall henceforth be dedicated also as a day for Nation-wide prayer for permanent peace. The Congress has also requested that the President issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day in that manner…I designate the hour beginning at eleven o’clock in the morning of that day, Eastern Daylight Saving Time, as a period in which all our people may unite in prayer, each in accordance with his own religious faith, for divine aid in bringing enduring peace to a troubled world…”
* In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by Congress, and the date was changed from the 30th of May to the last Monday in May.
Emergency Services Pancake Breakfast (I’ve got a message in to the legion in Ninilchik – not sure of times)
American Legion Cemetery, services at 2 p.m.
VFW Post 10221
Ladies Auxiliary Prize Tree
Horseshoe Tournament, 1 p.m.
Barbecue, 3 p.m.
Band 8 p.m.
Breakfast at the Senior Center, 9-11 a.m.
Anchor Point Cemetery, services at noon.
Hickerson Cemetery, services at 10 a.m.
Down East Saloon, barbecue potluck and horseshoe tournament. $5 entry fee, registration is at 2:30 p.m., tournament starts at 3 p.m.
The 7th Annual Human Powered Fishing Derby is Friday-Sunday. Cost to enter is $35 per fishing rod. Sign up Friday morning in Seldovia and get a full list of rules.
The Seldovia Bay Ferry is now making two trips daily between Homer and Seldovia. For more information visit seldoviabayferry.com.
The following restaurants are now open in Seldovia:
Amon’s – Breakfast and lunch.
Boardwalk Hotel Pub & Grill – Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Linwood Bar & Grill – Lunch, dinner, full bar and live country music Friday and Saturday Night.
Salmon Annie’s – Grand opening Memorial Day.
Tidepool Cafe – Breakfast, lunch and dinner.