Flower power: Poppies honor fallen World War I Texans

“The blood of heroes never dies.”

They couldn’t be more alive through the wonderful project of remembering World War I fallen soldiers from Texas that took place on campus last spring.

Under the supervision of history professor Clive B. Siegle and ceramic artist professor Jennifer Rose and the contribution of more than 500 volunteers and community members, they were able to make 5,171 red ceramic poppies and one white poppy for the nurse who died in battle.

Each one of the poppies represents a fallen solider from Texas that fought in World War I. The idea of the project started when Siegle and Rose were drawn to another project that was done in England in 2014 for the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. According to Siegle, it was a big deal in England because they suffered tremendous casualties during the war.

A group of people in England would create one poppy for every fallen British soldier in WWI and sell the poppies to raise money to fund veterans.

The poppy was one of the few flowers in Europe that would be pounded by artillery for months and pop back up again as thus becoming a symbol of memory. Siegle described the importance of the poppy as a “memorial flower.”

The purpose of the project was to tell a story about how a Canadian and American wrote poems and took the poppy idea and made the poppy the symbol of memory of fallen soldiers and their sacrifice, which was the genesis the project. The tittle of the story which is “The Blood of Heroes Never Dies” is derived from the poem, “In Flanders Field” written by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCare, M.D. in 1915. “In Flanders Field the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely fly.”

It was one of two poems that inspired the story. The other poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” was written by an American woman from Georgia named Moina Michaels. These two poems symbolize the poppy as a memorial for these soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their country.

The design for the poppy was the idea of professor Jen Rose, who created the prototype and an efficient way to produce these poppies.She hosted volunteer sessions at Richland, where they would make around 300 poppies in each session with the help of“people of all different backgrounds and generation,” Rose said.

The project launched in Sept. 4 last year, and was completed in seven weeks. The volunteers came together from everywhere to remember and never forget, the fallen soldiers, their sacrifice and by the story of the poppy and what it symbolizes.

The project created the largest outdoor WWI memorial in Texas and one of the largest of its kind in the nation. So far, the project has generated around $24,000. The money is donated to charities for disabled veterans. 

The project also won the Innovation of the Year award and was presented in the Richland Fall convocation. 

A group of poppies remain by the lake.