No Stone Left Alone from 2020 event. Independent file photo

A meaningful local tradition continues in Stettler with the ‘No Stone Left Alone’ ceremony at Lake View Cemetery

The event focuses on the setting up of crosses with poppies on the graves of veterans

A meaningful local tradition continues in Stettler with the ‘No Stone Left Alone’ ceremony at Lake View Cemetery.

This year’s event, which focuses on the setting up of crosses with poppies on the graves of veterans, is set to run Nov. 8th at 1 p.m.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, this year’s service will be scaled back, organizers say.

Looking back, the project was originally organized by local resident Peggy Duncan, an IODE member who first spearheaded the event back in 2017.

RCMP members, local dignitaries, local veterans and some bagpipers will be present, however.

Meanwhile, as mentioned, the concept for bringing about the No Stone Left Alone initiative to Stettler was sparked about four years ago.

Duncan saw it on TV while in Calgary.

Organizers were putting up crosses for Remembrance Day at a spot along Calgary’s Memorial Drive. From there, she decided it was a terrific concept to begin right here at home in Stettler.

Initially, things got started with 25 crosses but that number later grew to well over 100.

Support from the local high school has also always been superb. Pre-pandemic, they would have about 40 students help out with No Stone Left Alone.

These days, the local Rotary Club has taken over the initiative, said Carol Nixon.

“It’s really to honour, to educate and to remember,” she explained of No Stone Left Alone.

“The Rotary Club and the community would like to extend our thanks to Peggy Duncan and IODE members for all of their efforts in establishing the No Stone Left Alone honouring all veterans since 2017,” said Nixon.

Meanwhile, the program’s origins, according to the web site, extend back to 1971, when, “A child of 12 was having a discussion with her mother who was very ill and near death.

“Her mother, who was a veteran, stroked the child’s head and asked her not to cry and to try not to forget her on Armistice Day. Through her tears, the young girl looked into her mother’s eyes and nodded, not even understanding what was meant by the word Armistice.

“Our founder, Maureen Bianchini Purvis, was that young girl. Her mother was Lillian Mary Bianchini, a proud Canadian veteran of WWII. Never missing a year since the passing of her mother, Maureen has gone to the cemetery site to lay a poppy on Remembrance Day. First alone, then with her husband and finally, as soon as they could walk, her two daughters. They would pause at the cenotaph and look out at all the headstones that lay in the Field of Honour in Beechmount Cemetery in Edmonton. Her two little girls would ask, ‘Why don’t the others get a poppy?’

“She wrote a letter to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, who gave his blessing and encouraged her to begin. Next she contacted the Minister of Education and then she met a young Lieutenant-Colonel who said, ‘We can do this’.

“But Bianchini Purvis’ goal was not only to honour veterans today. She and her family saw that the key to ongoing remembrance lay in engaging youth in a more meaningful and personal act of remembrance – so that they could truly understand and connect with the sacrifices made to give all of us the peace and freedoms we enjoy today, and carry that connection forward with them through their lives,” noted the web site.

No Stone Left Alone was then officially launched in 2011.

“I feel that it’s very important to honour them – we can’t forget them,” explained Nixon. “Because of them, we’ve had certainly a good life.”

There’s a personal dimension to it as well, as Nixon said she has had several relatives who served over the years as well.

It’s also a meaningful experience to visit the local cemetery and realize just how many folks served as well.

Not to mention, No Stone Left Alone’s impact is felt event further afield each year.

“Now in Canada, with each year, it involves more than 12,000 students, 121 cemeteries honouring 64,500 veterans.”