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A century after its white roses were placed on the casket of first Unknown Soldier in 1921, a French family rose grower has created a “Never Forget” variety to mark the upcoming centennial of Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Ducher Rose Growers, founded in 1845, provided the white roses used by a U.S. Army sergeant to choose which of the four caskets of unidentified soldiers’ remains would represent those who lost their lives in World War I. After the October 1921 ceremony, the casket was escorted from ravaged eastern France to Washington D.C., where it lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Some 90,000 visitors paid their respects there, and then it was placed in the new marble Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington.

This November 11 will mark the tomb’s centennial. Part of the commemoration includes “Never Forget” gardens “drawing upon the ancient language of flowers to help us express our profound love, respect and pride in those millions that have served and sacrificed to preserve the promise of America,” said Richard Azzaro, project director for the Society of the Honor Guard at the Tomb. Thus the name of the rose. 

Fabien Ducher said his great-great uncle had lost two sons in WWI and wanted to provide the flowers for the American ceremony in 1921. Now, as the sixth generation of his family to grow roses in south-central France, it is Fabien Ducher’s turn. He said his company had been testing a new white rose variety for a few years in Arizona, Texas and New York, so when the question was raised, he had a candidate in hand. “It is kind of the history of my family with the United States,” Ducher said. “This is a gift from the Roseraie Ducher to the American people.”

Ducher gives the Never Forget rosebush high marks. “It’s a rose that is disease-resistant, it flowers all the time, nearly 10 months a year,” he said. “It is truly exceptional.”

The Society of the Honor Guard is working with the American Rose Society to encourage the creation of “Never Forget” gardens across the nation. Marilyn Wellan, director of the American Rose Center in Shreveport, La., is designing one within its vast 118-acre site, and will plant the Never Forget rose there once it becomes available later this year. Wellan said she reached out to Fabien Ducher when the opportunity arose.

“Having a rose named Never Forget will be a reminder and help to perpetuate the message that we must never forget; that we are united with and honor all those served and sacrificed on behalf of America in times of war and armed conflict,” Wellan said. “We recognize the power of roses to speak of patriotism, give comfort, symbolize love, pride, courage, unity, valor and most of all, remembrance.”

Both virtual and in-person events nationwide to commemorate the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier begin in March, culminating on November 11 with a flyover and ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. In late October, events are planned in France at cemeteries overseen by the American Battle Monuments Commission, as well as at Châlons-sur-Champagne, where the 1921 ceremony took place.

Ducher said his firm will provide some flowers for the ceremonies. Aptly enough in the context of Franco-American history, he has just finished replanting the rose garden at Chavaniac—the chateau of the revolutionary-era Marquis de La Fayette.

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