Almost 70 years after her death, Moina Belle Michael, or the Poppy Lady as she is most famously know, was again honored on Sunday. The national president of the American Legion Auxiliary, Peggy Thomas, and the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Georgia predent, Susie Marsh, laid a wreath at the head of Michael's grave in downtown Monroe, Ga.
Born in Good Hope, Ga., Michael went on to become known worldwide for using the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in World War I. Many biographies have been written on Michael, including this one on findagrave.com.
Thomas was escorted into town by the Patriot Guards/Legion Riders just before 10 a.m. Sunday. Thomas, a 31-year member of the Auxiliary, has held numerous leadership positions in the organization at the unit, district and department levels. She was elected to the top position of national president last summer. Thomas said she was trying to meet as many people in the American Legion Auxiliary at the grassroots level and it was fitting to stop by the gravesite of Michael.
"She is someone who is near and dear to our hearts," Thomas said. "The poppy is still the way we recognize the sacrifices of our military, because they made so many sacrifices - and we would not be here today if not for their sacrifices."
Thomas said she joined the American Legion Auxiliary through her husband, but she came from a military family with seven brothers who served.
"I did not serve myself, but this is my way of serving. Suicides are up in the military and children of the military - and a lot of people don't know that," Thomas said. "We work with the VA hospitals and with the families of our veterans."
Thomas and Marsh laid the wreath at the head of Micheal's grave as a fellow American Legion Auxiliary member read Michael's poem, We Shall Keep Faith. The poem that first inspired Michael, In Flanders Field, also was read.
Michael is buried in Resthaven Cemetery in Monroe, Ga. According to her biography, after being inspired by the poem, In Flanders Field, which details the poppies that bloomed in the battlefields of Flanders in World War I, Michael wrote her own poem, We Shall Keep Faith. In 1918, Michael came up with the idea of using the poppy as an a symbol of remembrance for those who served in World War I. She dedicated the rest of her life getting the emblem recognized, later becoming known as the Poppy Lady. She also taught disabled serviceman at the University of Georgia in Athens for a while. The stretch of U.S. Highway 78 between Athens and Monroe was named the "Moina Michael Highway."
Still today, the poppy is the recognized symbol of remembrance for veterans and is sold to raise funds for disabled veterans in the U.S. and around the world.