Premier recognizes Powassan poppy dress creator

·4 min read

Tuesday started off like any other business day for Julie Gohm, the owner of JMI Design Studio in Powassan.

But things started getting a little strange around 10 a.m. as people began arriving at her shop — people Gohm knew but wasn't expecting.

It started with local Legion Branch 453 member veteran Dan Taylor in formal military dress, followed by Kathie Hogan, events coordinator for the municipality, and moments later Mayor Peter McIsaac showed up, as well as several other people.

Gohm admits she had no idea why all these people were in her shop, and neither did her staff.

Gohm's profile has risen considerably the past few weeks because she's been the driving force, along with her staff, in creating a dress made of poppies to commemorate Remembrance Day.

Gohm's goal is to get people thinking about what Remembrance Day means to them when they see the dress displayed in her shop's front window.

Word of the unique dress spread to the point CBC's The National interviewed the Powassan resident last week.

At the CBC interview, Gohm asked that Taylor also be present because she believed it was important to have a veteran's point of view expressed as part of the story.

With the television interview over, it was back to normal for Gohm until Tuesday morning when Taylor and the others showed up at her business.

“At first I thought they were here to do a story with Dan and were using the poppy dress as a backdrop,” she says. “But then Dan called me and I noticed he was holding a folder which he presented to me.”

Taylor explains what he held was a citation from Premier Doug Ford recognizing Gohm's work and the work of her employees on the poppy dress.

He handed the folder to Gohm, who was overwhelmed.

“This is the last sort of thing people expect when you're doing the right thing from the heart,” Gohm says.

“The fact that this reached so many people and for Premier Doug Ford to recognize this is overwhelming because it was not our intention.”

Gohm says the goal of creating the poppy dress, which holds 600 to 700 poppies, is to get people to “stop, pause and reflect what Remembrance Day means to them.

“This wasn't supposed to be about us that says, 'Wow we're amazing,'” Gohm says. “This was about what we were trying to capture, what we were trying to instill in the hearts and minds of others.”

On the citation, Ford commends and thanks Gohm and her employees for their work “during this time of need.”

These are “difficult days for the province, but we are facing the challenges together,” Ford wrote, adding it's inspiring to find compassion and kindness in a small group of people.

“(It) shows we care for one another and (exemplifies) the true Ontario spirit,” he wrote.

Gohm says she was almost at a loss for words, but managed to get a thank you in during the event.

Afterward, she said what was so incredible with what happened is that the dress started out as a simple idea, but grew several fold.

“To see it go from that to where it is now and that it's going to be viewed by so many people, it's overwhelming,” she says.

“It's going to take me a while to process that our efforts have been appreciated by far more (people) than what we even could have possibly imagined.”

Asked how the premier got wind of the poppy dress, Gohm says it was through Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli.

Fedeli had seen the poppy dress and read stories about what it represents.

Working behind the scenes and indirectly with Gohm's daughter he arranged for the presentation to take place on Tuesday.

Gohm plans to frame the citation, which will hang in the front office of JMI Design Studio.

“It will be nice for my staff to have recognition when they come in the door in the morning and see and know they were part of something that became bigger than what our first intentions were,” says Gohm.

“And the public will be able to see it, too.”

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget