Clay Poppies Crafted to Honor World War I Veterans

Kaile Sharp carefully shapes his poppy as he, along with his Maconaquah Middle School classmates, made poppies out of clay in their art class on May 2, 2018, for Miami County's World War I memorial. Kelly Lafferty Gerber | Kokomo Tribune

PERU, Ind. (AP) — More than 1,350 poppies are set to be installed on the lawn of the Miami County, Indiana courthouse to honor every man and woman from the county who served in World War I.

But first, they all have to be made.

That's just what students, clubs, nonprofits and residents all over the county have been doing over the last few months to create the massive art installation in November in downtown Peru that will honor the war's veterans 100 years after the bloody conflict ended.

The project is being spearheaded by a new nonprofit group called Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering, which formed last year to organize a slew of activities as part of the World War I centennial.

And last week, students at Maconaquah Middle School helped move the project forward by spending the day making around 140 of the clay poppies during an art class led by teacher Lindsey Kunkle.

As each class came in, volunteers with Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering were there to walk the students through the process of making the poppies from pre-cut clay, which the students folded and shaped to look like the cupped petals of the iconic flower.

Eventually, each clay poppy will be fired in a kiln, painted red and attached to a metal stem before they are all placed on the courthouse lawn.

Maconaquah isn't the only school helping out with the undertaking. Students from North Miami and Peru have also made hundreds of poppies. So have Peru city officials and sorority members from Psi Iota Xi and Tri Kappa. Clients from Bona Vista in Peru and Kokomo have also made them.

Soon, the Peru Library board will pitch in to make more. There will also be a special session during the city's Second Saturday event in June where anyone can craft one of the flowers.

So far, groups have made around 800 poppies, which have become an international symbol of honor for fallen military veterans.

Regine Brindle, a volunteer researcher and member of Miami County Worth Remembering, said the project is all about getting as many people from the community as possible to participate in making the poppies.

She said people spending the time to hand craft each individual flower is an up-close-and-personal way for residents to honor the war's veterans.

That's especially true for young students, who may not know much about World War I, Brindle said. That's why she incorporates a short history lesson of the conflict into every class that helps make the flowers

"It's important for kids to connect these poppies to their past," she said. "They say you need to have three senses involved to really learn something forever, and by doing this, we're connecting the knowledge they learn to the clay they're molding. It's hopefully something they will remember the rest of their lives."

Maconaquah Art Teacher Kunkle said it's rare to have a project that connects art, history and community service, so when she was approached about having her students participate, she was on board.

"This is really important," Kunkle said. "Any time you can do a large installation piece and get art out into the community is really cool. I think once the kids see this out at the courthouse, it will be pretty meaningful."

Brindle was one of the first people to think up the downtown poppy project last year as part of the county's World War I centennial remembrance. In the beginning, though, the idea was to just make around 30.

But as the group continued to research the people who served in the war, they realized there were way more veterans than they first thought, Brindle said. That led the nonprofit to launch a full-out effort to track down every single World War I veteran from Miami County.

Brindle said once they finish their research, they will have the first complete list of veterans in the county's history.

But as the list of veterans grew, so did the number of poppies that needed to be made to honor each one. Today, the group has confirmed 1,365 veterans from the county. Brindle said they still have 600 names to research, so that number could jump even higher.

"Our goal at first was 1,000 poppies, which people found overwhelming," she said. "They said, 'There's no way that's happening.' But we've found so much support all over the place. It's like people have grabbed onto this idea and want to be a part of it. It's been exciting to watch."

And once all the poppies have been made and placed on the courthouse lawn, Brindle said, it will be a moving tribute to all the men and woman who served in a war the changed the world.

Miami County Worth Remembering is hosting another World War I event at 11 a.m. Saturday, when a memorial marker honoring the women who contributed to the war effort will be unveiled on the southwest corner of the courthouse lawn.

The event aims to honor the courage and contributions of women to the county and country during the war.

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Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/2KOpMDU

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com

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This article was written by Carson Gerber from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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