No Stone Left Alone: Students lay poppies in honour of Edmonton's fallen

As Remembrance Day nears, thousands of Edmonton school children lay poppies along the headstones of fallen soldiers.

'It's such an honour to be in their presence and lay down a poppy for their service'

The 'No Stone Left Alone Memorial Foundation' helped students place poppies on soldiers graves Monday. 0:32

Thousands of Edmonton school children placed poppies on the headstones of fallen soldiers on Monday in the lead up to Remembrance Day.

The campaign is the work of No Stone Left Alone Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in Edmonton in 2011 with the mission of ensuring that those who gave their lives in battle are never forgotten.

Almost 2,000 junior high school students will travel to grave sites across Edmonton, St. Albert and Leduc this week beginning Monday at Edmonton's Beechmount Cemetery, where 9,000 soldiers have been laid to rest.
10-year-old Maja Slobodzian, a Grade 5 student from St. Mary Catholic School places a poppy at the base of the headstone of a fallen soldier at Beechmount Cemetery. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

"We have an opportunity to communicate with these students," spokesman Randall Purvis said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"And if the students are engaging in this venture — which is simply laying a poppy on a soldier's headstone and identifying that as a human, that was a brother, an aunt, an uncle, a son, to someone else — they can relate that to their own family.

"And they have a moment of reflection ... and then we ask them to write a reflection letter, and those letters are profound."
Three Royal Canadian Air Force CT-114 Tutor CF Snowbirds fly over Beechmount Cemetery Monday. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

After placing a poppy on a headstone, Maja Slobodzian, a Grade 5 student at St. Mary Catholic School, took a step back and bowed her head.

"It's such an honour to be in their presence and lay down a poppy for their service," she said.

Her classmate Scott Milligan said, "I think of how everyone deserves freedom and everyone deserves to be remembered," as he looked at the rows of crosses.

A final promise 

It all started in Beechmount Cemetery on 104th Street.

Purvis's wife, Maureen Bianchini-Purvis, the daughter of two Second World War veterans, promised her dying mother more than 30 years ago that she would not be forgotten on Remembrance Day.

Every November from then on, Bianchini-Purvis would return to the Field of Honour in Beechmount Cemetery to lay a poppy, first alone, later joined by her daughters.

The family was continuing the tradition when, six years ago, their daughter noticed that many veterans' headstones sat neglected. The couple then founded No Stone Left Alone Memorial Foundation.

Now, the organization works with the military, volunteer committees, students and Alberta educators, and has grown into a national movement.  

This year, the group will lay nearly 45,000 poppies on veterans' graves across the country, from Prince Edward Island to Victoria.

"It seems to be that we are gaining momentum as we go across the country," Purvis said.
A poppy rests on a soldier's headstone at Beechmount Cemetery. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)