YARMOUTH, N.S. – A Remembrance Day window display at Spears and MacLeod Pharmasave in Yarmouth has once again been turning a lot of heads and attracting a lot of attention.
The two women who invested countless time, thought and energy into the display, which includes a striking red gown of poppies, hope it’s not so much what people see when they look at the display, but rather what they think about and what they remember.
Jody Kempton-Belliveau, an RN in homecare at Spears and MacLeod Pharmasave, is one of the creators of the display but she says she can’t take credit for the original idea of the dress made of poppies. She had first seen a photo of something similar to this from the UK on the internet and thought it was so beautiful and such a poignant tribute.
So she and coworker Gail Fitzgerald, who manages the post office and giftware section of Spears and MacLeod Pharmasave, collaborated on how they could display a similar tribute in the business’s window in Yarmouth.
This is the second year the poppy dress has been displayed, although this year it has garnered more attention and admiration – likely due to the fact there has been much sharing on social media, including to the Facebook sites We Love Yarmouth, We Love Nova Scotia, in addition to the Spears and MacLeod Pharmasave Facebook page.
So how much work went into this tribute?
The women never tallied the hours but suffice it to say it was a lot. A lot of thought and consideration went into the dress.
“The first year we were going to make our own poppies out of card stock. That fell through – probably a good thing it did because card stock would have been too firm to fit the model’s body,” says Kempton-Belliveau.
The two women then came up with the idea of finding and using a red gown as a starting point.
“I looked in every Frenchys between here and Halifax and back. We finally had a red gown donated to us,” Kempton-Belliveau says, although the women felt the gown was a bit too revealing for the era. So they got a long-sleeve red t-shirt to put underneath and then stitched the gown to the t-shirt.
“We hoisted everything up, and we tied it all together in the back, and then we went from there,” says Kempton-Belliveau.
The women spent hundreds of dollars purchasing poppies from the Royal Canadian Legion. They aren’t disclosing exactly how many poppies are on the dress, but they do so it’s more than 1,000.
This, of course, held the potential for a lot of pricked fingers. But that didn’t happen.
“We didn’t prick our fingers. We burnt our fingers instead,” Kempton-Belliveau says.
She got her husband involved and he removed the pins from the poppies as a mannequin stood in their living room for days. After the pins were removed the two women hot glued the black centres onto each poppy and then they hot glued each poppy onto the gown.
They went row by row by row, overlapping some of the poppies. It wasn't until they put the dress onto the mannequin that they could see where they needed an extra poppy, or more. They’d put one here. One there. One here. They wanted the gown to look as if it was flowing.
Even when they positioned the woman wearing the dress in the window their work still wasn’t done. They decided to split the back of the dress open to give it the look, from the front, that they wanted to achieve.
The woman wearing the poppy dress is not alone. Standing next to her is a soldier. Last year they had dressed a soldier in a uniform they had gotten from the Legion. This year, Fitzgerald says, the jacket and pants are from Ken Crook and the hat, tie and shirt are from the museum.
The two women also wanted to add other personal touches so they included photographs of soldiers who have a connection with staff at the pharmacy – pictured in the window are Kirk Taylor, Bevan Manthorne and Robert (Bobby) Pothier. The poem In Flanders Fields has also been displayed, along with a wreath.
“We should not forget. We should be sharing that with future generations what went on."
The overwhelming public reaction to the window display has been both surprising and gratifying to the women who invested so much of their time and themselves into the project. Asked what they hope is the biggest takeaway from the display, Kempton-Belliveau says they just want people to remember the significance behind what they are seeing.
“So many people have forgotten. A lot of young people these days don’t know what it means,” Kempton-Belliveau says.
She speaks of being so moved one day when a group of small children were outside on the sidewalk, looking at the window display. The children were saying, ‘Look at all of the flowers,’ and the adult woman who was with them explained to them what those flowers mean.
“I thought, isn’t that awesome,” Kempton-Belliveau says. “We should not forget. We should be sharing that with future generations what went on, and why we are free today.”