East Middlebury salutes its veterans with a cherished flag


COAST GUARD VETERAN Henry Haskell, left, and East Middlebury resident Toby Welch hang a replica of the East Middlebury Veterans Flag above the entrance to the Sarah Partridge Community House & Library Wednesday morning — Veterans Day — while Peggy Peabody looks on. Peabody sewed this replica (the original is at the Sheldon Museum), which features a blue star for every East Middlebury resident who served in World War II. Independent photo/Steve James

Independent photo/Steve James

Independent photo/Steve James

Independent photo/Steve James

EAST MIDDLEBURY — Early Wednesday morning, a trio of East Middlebury residents gathered at their village’s Sarah Partridge Community House and Library to raise a special flag on a special day.

Henry Haskell (who technically resides in Salisbury but really is only a stone’s throw from East Middlebury), Toby Welch and Peggy Peabody met at the library to hang the East Middlebury Veterans Flag on the front of the charming old East Main Street edifice. It’s a job they do twice a year — on Veterans Day and Memorial Day — to honor those men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces.

The original East Middlebury Veterans Flag dates from World War II. A blue star represents each soldier who enlisted from East Middlebury. On patriotic occasions, the flag was hung over Main Street along with the American Flag. Two poles were put in, one in front of Betty Smith’s house and one in front of Chester Palmer’s house across the road, with a pulley attached to the pole. The last time the original flag was flown was May 8, 1995 — the 50th anniversary of VE day, which marked the Allies’ World War II victory in Europe.

The flag’s design was based on the “blue star” or “service” flag, which originated during World War I and was popular again during the Second World War. Each household that had a member in the service would hang a small (approximately 10 inches x 12 inches) flag in a window facing the street. Each small flag has a blue star on it for each household member serving his or her country. In the event of the death of a soldier, the blue star would be replaced by a gold star — thus the term “Gold Star Mother.” The VFW actively promoted this concept. Bridport also has a community flag dating from this period.

The current East Middlebury Veterans Flag that flew on Wednesday was made as a large-scale replica of one of these household flags, with stars representing each person in the community who had gone to war. Each time a person left, another star would be added by one of the ladies of the community. This explains the uneven spacing of the stars, as the flag was still being made at the end of the war.

The original flag, seamstress unknown, became fragile as time passed. It is now in the care of the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History in downtown Middlebury. Peggy Peabody, a member of the East Middlebury Historical Society and former home economics teacher at Middlebury Union Middle School, sewed the replica of the original flag in 2001.

Now the striking red, white and blue flag is proudly displayed in East Middlebury on Memorial Day and Veterans Day each year.

Haskell, 74, served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1964-1968. He is also the caretaker at the Sarah Partridge. He called the Independent to make sure we knew about the flag raising. He is clearly proud of the flag and for all that it stands for.

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