The Poppy Lady
On August 15, 1869, Moina Belle Michael is born into a world of change. Growing up in Georgia, not long after the American Civil War ends, Moina watches families who have lost everything try to recover their losses and start over. With each passing year, she sees the lines of worry on the faces of her family and friends grow deeper. When Moina turns fifteen, she helps out in her community by teaching the neighbors' children.
Moina believes that anything is possible if you do your best and follow through. Throughout her life she relies on her favorite motto:
Whatsoever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.
In 1914, Moina is in Europe when World War I breaks out. She barely escapes. Back home in Georgia, images haunt her.
Moina does not want America to enter the war. She prays against it. But soon brave young soldiers storm war-torn Europe. And Moina cannot sit idly by. She has to do something.
Moina volunteers to support the war effort. She knits socks and sweaters and rolls bandages for the Red Cross. But World War I is unlike any other war. Mustard gas, bombs, shrapnel and torpedo U-boats claim the lives of so many, so quickly. Moina needs to do more.
She attends the Y.M.C.A. training program in New York City. If she passes the course she can travel overseas as a canteen worker where she’ll listen to the soldiers talk about home and family and help serve them meals. Moina successfully passes the course, but is then told she is too old to go overseas.
The Poppy Lady(continued)
Heading back home to Georgia is not an option. Instead, Moina sets up her desk in a room where soldiers spend their free time before going overseas. With her own money she buys fresh flowers and places them throughout the room. Moina has no husband. No children. But every soldier has a place in her heart. And she always makes time to sit and chat.
One day, a young soldier leaves a copy of a magazine on Moina’s desk. She opens to a marked page and finds the poem “We Shall Not Sleep” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician. Moina has read the poem several times before. And each time she is touched by the doctor’s tribute to the soldiers he cannot save on the battlefields of Flanders. But the colorful illustration holds Moina’s attention. Spirits of soldiers float above a battleground covered in white crosses and bright red poppies. There are no names on the crosses. No memory of who rests beneath the red poppies.
Inspired by the poem, Moina promises to remember the soldiers~always.
From that time forward, Moina works hard to keep her promise. She urges groups to adopt the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy as a tribute to soldiers who do not return. And when she sees the needs of returning servicemen and women and their families, she works hard to have donations from the poppy assist them.
Finally, her persistence pays off. The poppy becomes a universal tribute that supports veterans and their families, and holds the same message, “I remember.”