Bath council approves student poppy display on Fairfax Green

by Trish Rudder

Warm Springs Intermediate School received approval from the Bath Town Council on February 1 to display ceramic poppies on the Fairfax Green during Memorial Day weekend.

The community art project was requested by Marianna Ruggiero, art teacher at the intermediate school.

The Fairfax Green – the median strip that divides the two lanes of East Fairfax Street – displays monuments honoring those Morgan Countians who fought in wars from the American Civil War to Vietnam.

In her letter to the town council, Ruggiero wrote that the students will be learning about how the poppy flower came to be a symbol of honor and remembrance for fallen soldiers.

Each student will create a ceramic poppy bloom that will be displayed on the Green near the Vietnam Veterans and WWII Memorials.

The 390 poppies will be on thin steel poles that will be placed in the ground about five inches, she wrote.

Warm Springs Intermediate School third grade student, Braden Smith, is carving out his poppy flower from a clay slab.

“Along with teaching our students history and ceramic skills, it will create a beautiful Memorial Day display for our community.”

Lynn Lavin, Morgan Arts Council artist has been working with Ruggiero at the intermediate school to show the students how to make the poppies.

She said Ruggiero teaches the history of it all and Flanders Fields.

The poem “In Flanders Fields” was written in 1915 by John McCrae, a Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel in the First World War. Flanders Fields is a common English name of the World War I battlefields in Belgium and France.

“Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict,” historians have said.

“They learn the history and it’s more like a civics thing,” Lavin said.

“This is why we’re doing it.” We have a slide show that shows footage of Flanders Fields and the history behind that,” Ruggiero said.

Lavin said the students will write their name on the top of their poppy and can add a pet’s name on a petal.

She said she and Ruggiero will put the poppies on the Green by each class, so the students can identify theirs more easily.

The $2,000 grant funding is through the West Virginia Department of Art, Culture and History.

Lavin said last week that the 25% matching funds required will hopefully come from the Morgan Arts Council (MAC). “We’re working on it,” she said, with the help from Thom Rubel, MAC president.

Town resident Larry Landon, who coordinates the placement of the Knights of Columbus wreathes on the Green for Memorial Day weekend, said he will coordinate with Ruggiero when the poppies will be placed on the Green.

The council said the poppy metal stems must be removed by Ruggiero’s group after the Memorial Day weekend.