Originally published in The Weekly Packet, June 6, 2013
Field of Flags installation remembers Rufus Wanning
by Faith DeAmbrose
As they have for the last eight years, members of Peninsula Peace & Justice and others from the community gathered in downtown Blue Hill for the annual installation of the Field of Flags. The June 1 event, which was held back one week due to heavy rains on Memorial Day weekend, held special significance as those gathered took time to reflect both on the field, but also about its owner, Rufus Wanning, who died on May 10.
Those who spoke about Wanning spoke about the way he lived his life and about the causes he took up. “Rufus carefully chose the issues he was willing to fight for or against,” said longtime friend and PP&J member Peter Robbins. “He was just a remarkable guy…so brilliant and while we will miss him we are all certainly blessed” for having known him.
Brooksville resident Robert Shetterly said he regretted not knowing Wanning better, despite having “been in the same orbit for many years.” He said that the Field of Flags and the remembering of the lives lost to conflict was significant. “It is important that we continue to do this work,” said Shetterly, “to keep individuals and history from being altered going forward.”
The words spoken were occasionally drowned out by passing vehicles and even a cadence of motorcycles at one point, but the 30 or so people in attendance gathered in a tighter circle, closer together. Judy Robbins said Wanning believed the Field of Flags was “the best and highest use of his land,” and read a tribute from author and activist Terry Tempest Williams regarding the day that Willams met Wanning at the field.
Peter Robbins spoke about Wanning’s commitment to MOFGA and to the formation of the Bay School, noting that many of the organizational meetings took place at the house on Tenney Hill. Much of the Bay School was created with Rufus’s input, said Robbins.
A permanent tribute to Wanning was added to the field—a flowering crabapple tree—recently donated by the Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County. “With all the amazing things Rufus did with his life, he was also a trained hospice volunteer,” said executive director Jody Wolford-Tucker, of the tree which now stands as a year-round tribute to Wanning. Tucker said that Wanning took great lengths to document his end of life journey, which he then shared with Tucker and to a select group of friends. She said she has shared Wanning’s story with the many volunteers who dedicate themselves to hospice work.
Another new addition to the field this summer is a large circular prayer flag, created with a tea-stained cloth made during a 2005 sit-in protest of the ongoing Iraq war. Using a technique called photo transfer, the flag segments were made by local residents and the flag hung in the center of the field to encourage people to enter, explained Carolyn Coe.