In 2006 the Morris and Whiteside Gallery arranged with the renowned artist and sculptor, Sandy Proctor, to display a unique work at their gallery which was then located on Route 278 just south of the entrance to Palmetto dunes. The life size bronze statue portrayed an elderly veteran sitting on a plain bench, leaning on his cane and wearing his old uniform. His gnarled  hands held a small American flag and two poppies symbolic of the lives lost in his country's wars. The medals signify his WWII achievements and his cap identifies his membership in the South Carolina American Legion. Exact copies of this work will be allotted to the various States but each State can only have one.

In 2009 The Gallery decided to relocate to their new location on Cordillo Parkway but chose to leave several bronze works behind, temporarily, at the old location. "Poppies" was one of them. Occasional by-passers noticed the lonely old man and wondered if he really belonged there. His feet were buried in pine straw and the birds were using him for target practice. Shouldn't he be in the Veterans Park?

By 2013 several local residents in the Shelter Cove area had made contact with the military organizations, The Shelter Cove Harbour Company and other like minded residents but no funds could be raised for the purchase and installation even if permission were granted to place the statue in a Town park. The project had gone nowhere until the right person came into the picture and things started to move.

Bill Baker (Captain, USN Ret.) took the helm of the Navy League in 2014 and made this a priority. It was never a question in his mind that he could raise the funds and get the job done. The earliest efforts were encouraged by a substantial gift from partners Mark Senn and Victor Mills of Blanchard and Calhoun who were redeveloping the old mall. Joining them were gracious friends in his Long Cove community who were steadfast in their support.

Early in 2015 Bill had most of the funding arranged  but was slowed for a moment when learning that the final cost had increased to $70,000. His resolute determination finally resulted in a date being set to sign the contract for the purchase and the subsequent installation. Only a few days before the signing and with promises of pending donations, Bill died suddenly of a heart attack. The community couldn't believe it and shocked friends consoled Bill's wife Sheila who had lost, so suddenly, such a dynamic, enthusiastic leader who had been about to finalize a project that had been so close to their hearts.

It wasn't long before his friends gathered to discuss how they could see through the project to rescue "Poppies", that Bill had started. Dan Huber, Biff Mautz and Bob Schweikart formed a committee to pick up the pieces and went to work. They were assisted by their wives Pat Huber, Josie Mautz and Karen Schweikast and of course Bill Baker's wife Sheila who shared the enthusiasm of those willing to help. Six Oaks Cemetery and Carolina Granite and Marble were represented by John Hunter and Lee Smith. They would handle the installation.

The Shelter Cove Towne Centre partners Mark Senn and Victor Mills were gracious donors. The Shelter Cove Company's President Charles Davis III and director Scott Foster enthusiastically supported the effort on behalf of the Shelter Cove Company Board.

The Morris and Whiteside Gallery was instrumental in the purchase and planning for this move and installation. Jack Morris, Ben Whiteside and David Leahy all pitched in and David even took "Poppies " to Tallassee Florida for a refinishing.

Approval for this project had to be obtained by the committee and starting with Mayor Bennett every level of approval was granted.  Jamie Lopko ushered the project through the Council Chambers. Perfect coordination between The Military Coalition (Richard Foster and Peter Hyers) and the Community Foundation Of The Low Country (Emmy Rooney, Jean Heyduck and Beth Mayo) resulted in a well planned arrangement which included gifting it to the Town.
With Dan Huber's leadership the project was done. Ample funds were raised and all accomplished in time for an unveiling and presentation on Memorial Day, May 25th, 2015.

In his comments on Memorial Day, Dan Huber talked about the experience he wanted to share with the overflow crowd that day;
            "Immediately following Bill's passing the sculpture project fast became a wonderful example of community support and teamwork where the Town of Hilton Head, private companies and many residents came together in a constructive, teamwork environment to fulfill Bill's dream. Bill's spouse Sheila was a significant influence and participant in the sculpture project and in Bill's involvement in the military coalition and establishment of Veterans Park. Indeed the bronze sculpture named "Poppies" by artist Stanley Proctor, will be a wonderful addition and improvement to the Town of Hilton Head and Veterans Park located here in this newly renovated and beautiful Towne Centre."

 It was a perfect and heart-warming day for many, filled with a grateful feeling for being included in such a worthwhile cooperative community effort.

To all Veterans who served that all may be free
On April 27 the truck picked up "Poppies" at the Morris and Whiteside Galery for a trip to Tallassee. The process there applied wax to a heated section until the whole structure was refreshed. Over time this will prevent oxidation of the bronze. The loading was done by David Leahy, Jack Morris, Ben Whiteside and Mark Cistone of Morris and Whiteside. David took the job of delivering and returning it.

 Much to the surprise of everyone, only 3 days later ”Poppies" was all done and awaiting a test fitting on the new bench in the park. He fit so well and the bolt holes were so perfect that the decision was made to leave him in place awaiting the dedication on Memorial Day May 25,2015. Soon however others viewed the installation and it was determined that the lettering needed to be redone and some adjustment needed to be made to "Poppies" position. The subsequent removal and replacement was quickly accomplished by and we were ready for Memorial Day.

The formal unveiling took place on Memorial Day as planned. It was the culmination of an effort which required the cooperation of numerous groups perhaps most notably because of the initial efforts of Captain Bill Baker (USN). We lost Bill at the last moment and the project was continued through the efforts of Dan Huber and his friends in Long Cove. Their fundraising added to the generous gift from Mark Senn and Victor Mills of Towne Centre and Dan made it work.

Memorial Day was pleasant and warm with a standing room only crowd. The unveiling of "Poppies" followed the ceremony and it seem that everybody felt that they now had a new friend who would be sitting there welcoming visitors to the park for years to come. Poppies was home.

View Island Packet article on Poppies statue