Maureen Bianchini Purvis grew up in north Edmonton, where the military was a memorable part of her life. Both her parents were active in veteran's groups, while army trucks used to travel past her family's home from the nearby base.
At age 12, Maureen lost her mother to cancer, so she made a promise to not forget her mother each Remembrance Day, annually visiting Beechmount Cemetery to lay a poppy at the grave to honour her mother's service.
The visits eventually included her husband Randall Purvis and their two daughters. One year, her youngest daughter questioned why all the other veterans' headstones at Beechmount's Field of Honour didn't also get poppies.
That query led Maureen, with support from family and friends, to create No Stone Left Alone (NSLA) in 2011, a non-profit memorial foundation devoted to safeguarding the memory of Canadian veterans. The goal also included educating youngsters about the sacrifices made by the military and honouring all soldiers in November with the symbol of remembrance, the poppy.
"We set out to leave No Stone Left Alone and isn't that the right thing to do?" she said in an interview last fall, after being named one of seven inductees to the Alberta Order of Excellence -- the province's highest honour -- for her contributions through the foundation.
Bianchini Purvis acknowledges the goal of placing a poppy on every veteran's grave is a lofty target. But thousands have already been honoured through the NSLA's efforts, which have expanded across Canada and gained a foothold in Europe, with ceremonies in France and Poland this year. The foundation has also had requests to hold memorial services in England and South Africa.
"I have witnessed the power of our volunteers and their community support and that gives me great hope that it will happen in the future, especially with our students who will now further the mission," Bianchini Purvis said.
She says the foundation's growth has benefitted from a touch of 'magic' since the beginning.
Through her networking, Bianchini Purvis was put in touch with a lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces who brought 80 soldiers, including Afghanistan veterans, to the foundation's very first poppy ceremony at Beechmount Cemetery. Later, by chance, she met former Alberta minister of education David Hancock at Fort Edmonton Park, and said she had "an idea" for educating students about the importance of military service. That encounter led to two schools sending students to take part in the new ceremony, plus subsequent front-page coverage by Edmonton's two major daily newspapers.
"If he (Hancock) would have responded another way, who knows what the next steps would have been?" Bianchini Purvis said. "NSLA has always had magic like that."
Educating young people about the importance of Remembrance Day and military sacrifice is rewarding for Bianchini Purvis and her family.
"I want them to feel in their hearts that these were real people, just like them," she said. "I want them to think about the things they can freely do that many children in the world cannot.
"Mostly I want them to learn about (veterans), and those who are serving today, and support them in any small way they can. Remembering is a good start."
Bianchini Purvis says she likes to ask students to write to her, a "reflection letter" about their thoughts about military service once they've had a chance to think about it.
"These words are gold; I truly wish all Canadians could read them all with us. We shed many tears."
Bianchini Purvis says to be recognized with the Alberta Order of Excellence "is beyond a privilege."
She added: "Born and raised here, and with the birth of the charity here, this is very personal."
The other inductees can be viewed at AOE Members | Alberta.ca