Crosses to remember those lost

SMALL native flax crosses found on war graves around the world are the result of one woman’s painstaking work to ensure our fallen soldiers are not forgotten.

Dolores Ho is an archivist at the National Army Museum in Waiouru and her vision is to place a cross made from the flax on every Kiwi war grave.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon in early April 2008, she made the first 100 crosses from harakeke after trying to gather enough poppies to place on 73 Kiwi graves in Cannock Chase War Cemetery, England.

Unable to find enough poppies, she made up the shortfall with the handmade crosses, which were placed at the cemetery on Anzac Day 2008.

Since then, about 6000 of the 30,000 overseas graves have been visited and a Dolores Cross placed as a tribute.

About 30 volunteers for the Dolores Cross Project have visited graves in the UK, France, Belgium, Canada, Sweden, Poland, Australia and North Africa.

Ms Ho continues to hand-make the crosses herself.

She chose harakeke because it grows plentifully here, and creates an intimate link between the homeland and those New Zealanders who fought in both world wars and never returned.

Her daughter Charmian told the Times: “It’s a big task, but she feels personally connected to the tribute. Each cross is made intentionally and with much heart.

“It’s not uncommon for my mother to shed tears over the crosses she makes and reflect on the men that she is making the tributes for.”

Ms Ho is a Malaysian-Chinese who migrated here in 1987.

She depends on people making requests from overseas, or delivering the crosses while travelling from New Zealand.

People from across the United Kingdom and New Zealand have offered their support for the project through donations and other non-monetary donations, or have volunteered their time to help place the crosses.

When possible some take photos so family members unable to afford travel costs can see their loved one’s resting place and obtain the picture as a keepsake.

Ms Ho says the Dolores Cross Project has received overwhelming support from strangers around the world who have now become friends.

“Many volunteers and supporters have shared with me that they are touched by this project and feel privileged to be involved with it,” she says.

“I’m humbled by the support the project has received. I am looking forward to connecting with more volunteers as we continue to visit more cemeteries and work towards the goal of this project – to personally pay tribute to all New Zealand service personnel buried overseas.”

By Marianne Kelly, Howick and Pakuranga Times: http://www.times.co.nz/cms/news/2011/04/printer_crosses_to_remember_those_lost.php

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