Store owner outraged at poppy can theft

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on November 5, 2011
Robert Tucker is shown in his St. John’s store, Tucker’s Superette, where thieves made off with a poppy fund can this week. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

In the several decades that Tucker’s Superette in St. John’s has sold Remembrance Day poppies, no one ever touched the donation can — until now.

“This is really low,” said store owner Robert Tucker, whose late father, also Robert, started the business in 1934.

“It’s a bit much that someone would stoop so low. They don’t care anymore.”

The poppy can was grabbed by a man and a woman, seizing an opportunity when an employee briefly turned away from the counter on Tuesday.

In the lead-up to Remembrance Day, the convenience store, like other businesses, sells poppies on behalf of the Royal Canadian Legion. The annual campaign is the major source of funding for the legion.

The theft was captured on videotape and Tucker said he reported it to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

Tucker, who began helping in the store in the 1970s and took it over full-time in 1978, said extended family members — uncles and cousins — fought in the Second World War, which lasted from 1939-45.

He recalls a cousin, Phillip Tucker, who was wounded with shrapnel after serving on a ship that was torpedoed.

“As a child, I remember seeing his back scarred by shrapnel,” Tucker said Friday between serving customers in the busy store. “He had been a strong man and he suffered all his life.”

The store is still selling poppies, but now keeps the donations behind the counter.

“Now you can’t put the poppy can out and trust the public,” he said. “(The thieves) have no respect.”

Tucker said the pair, who he figures are aged 25-30, have been in the store before and will be pegged sooner or later.

“The police are doing a fantastic job. We’ve never had a better police force,” Tucker said. “But they are so damn busy.”

He said even if caught, the thieves won’t get much out of the justice system, which he said creates a climate where criminals don’t serve adequate time on multiple charges.

“It’s just as well for them to giv ’er,” Tucker said of the thieves.

A staff member at the Royal Canadian Legion in St. John’s told The Telegram Friday its had reports of four poppy can thefts so far this year.

The Canadian Press has reported several thefts of poppy donation boxes in Ontario.

The artificial poppy pins are an iconic symbol of war remembrance. According to the Royal Canadian Legion website, on July 5, 1921, the forefather of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Great War Veterans Association, adopted the poppy as its “Flower of Remembrance.”

The primary purpose of the Poppy Trust Fund is to provide financial assistance to ex-servicemen and women in need, and to their dependants.

Canadian John McCrae most famously wrote about poppies in his poem “In Flanders Fields” in 1915 during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium, in the First World War.