Sunday, March 24, 2019
Ceramic Poppy Makes Way from Tower of London to Hailey Cemetery
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Jim Moss, his daughter Maren and Geegee Lowe show off some of the photos accompanying Jim Moss’ ceramic poppy.
 
Saturday, December 29, 2018
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Jim Moss was mesmerized as he looked at pictures of Brits “planting” 888,246 ceramic poppies representing British troops who perished in World War I in and around the Tower of London.

They did the planting in honor of the hundredth anniversary of Britain’s involvement in “the war to end all wars.”

Imagine his surprise four months later when his daughter Maren presented him with one of those ceramic poppies.

 
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Jim Moss built a box so he could hang his ceramic poppy on the wall.
 

On Thursday Moss presented that poppy to the Hailey Cemetery Board to be displayed in perpetuity, especially at Memorial Day Services.

“I’m getting up in years and I don’t know which of my children or grandchildren I would give this to,” said Moss, a longtime Hailey resident. “I asked if the Hailey Cemetery Board would like it and they went berserk over it.”

British citizens handmade the ceramic poppies, putting them on display at the Tower of London from mid-July 2014 until Armistice Day on Nov. 11 to commemorate the dates of the beginning and ending of World War I, which lasted from 1914 to 1918.

Each poppy represents a British soldier, sailor or airman who perished in the war. That doesn’t count the American, French and other Allied troops that died, nor does it include the Germans and others on the other side, said Moss.

 
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The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London attracted five million viewers. Public domain photo: Peter Macdiarmid
 

“It was a real blood bath,” he said.

Poppies have come to represent the blood spilled by fallen soldiers. Tens of thousands of poppies grow in Flanders Field in Belgium, the inspiration for the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by a doctor/soldier as a tribute to those who lost their lives on that battlefield.

Moss will read that poem at the 2019 Memorial Day observance in Hailey: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row…”

The poppy installation became known as the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.” It was named for a line in the will of an unknown soldier who died at Flanders Field in Belgium: “The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.”

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red became one of the most-visited and talked-about public art installations in a generation, attracting more than five million visitors.

The poppies, which flowed down the ramp into the moat surrounding the Tower of London looked like blood spilling out of the tower, said Moss.

On Nov. 11 those behind the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red display put the poppies up for sale, giving the proceeds to British Veterans organizations. Moss’s daughter Maren—a first-grade teacher—snapped one up, surprising her father with it.

“I have two daughters—Maren and Paula, who is a teacher at Hailey Elementary. And they always come up with very unusual but thoughtful gifts,” said Moss. “I was in shock when I saw this. It’s absolutely stunning, especially if you understand the history behind it.”

Moss has long been an avid student of history dating back to college when he majored in political science and minored in history. He himself is a veteran, having served four years from 1959 to 1963 at  U.S. Air Force bases in San Antonio, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Fairbanks, Alaska, and Grand Forks, N.D.

Moss, who has been married to his wife Laurie for 53 years, has been displaying the poppy in a prominent place in his home. But he’s brought it every year at Memorial Day Service since receiving it.

“It’s the Hailey Cemetery’s poppy from now on,” said Moss.

Geegee Lowe said the Hailey Cemetery Board will treasure this piece of history and will take part in the digital mapping of the poppies, which is tracing where the poppies have ended up and the stories behind how they got there.

“It was and will continue to be a part of the most significant and poignant commemoration of the first World War centennial,” she said.

 

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