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A way to remember: the Avenue of Flags

The Avenue of Flags lines the road through Elmwood Cemetery, a reminder of many of the veterans that have served over the years. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

It’s a majestic site each Memorial Day—hundreds of flags standing proudly, unfurled in the breeze, against the pale blue of a sun-drenched sky. They line the avenue that winds through Elmwood Cemetery on Northland Drive in Cedar Springs. They are beautiful to look at, but what is the story behind them?

According to Paul Schrier, treasurer at the American Legion Glen Hill Post #287, each flag honors a veteran who is no longer living. The flags are casket-sized, and according to Paul, it began years ago when families would give the Legion the flag they received at their loved one’s burial. They would hold on to it for the family, and then fly it once a year on Memorial Day. 

However, some families want to keep the original flag, so the Legion allows families to just buy a duplicate to fly once a year. The Legion also provides a pole and a plate at the base with the name of the veteran.

One thing many people may not know is that the veteran does not have to be buried in Elmwood Cemetery to have a flag on the avenue. But they do need to be a veteran, have been honorably discharged, and have some connection with Cedar Springs. A duplicate flag costs $50, and can be bought from the American Legion Post.

It’s unknown exactly when the tradition started. Schrier said he’s been organizing it for about the last seven years. However, we came across a story in a 1998 edition of the Post where George Cooley, a veteran now deceased, said at the time he had been doing it for 14 years. At the time, there were 101 flags on the Avenue of Flags.

According to Schrier, there are now 180 flags.

It takes some work ahead of time to get the holes in the cemetery ready for the flags, as well as get any new nameplates made. The American Legion also is always looking for volunteers to help put up the flags at 6 a.m. Monday morning, and then take them down again about 4 p.m. in the afternoon. If it is raining, or if rain is forecasted, they will not put them out since they are cotton, and will instead hold services in the American Legion hall.

So what does Schrier want people to feel as they walk through the Avenue of Flags? “It’s pretty impressive. I hope they remember the veterans that have served over the years,” he said.

If anyone would like to volunteer to help, or would like to buy a flag for a future year, contact Paul at the American Legion Post at 696-9160.

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3 Responses to “A way to remember: the Avenue of Flags”

  1. Scott Rogers says:

    Please do a little research. It was Ray Peavey who started this tradition. He was my neighbor. It the 60s Mr. Peavey started this. Come on Cedar Springs. Give credit where credit is due. It’s was in your paper no more than 5 years ago. What happened?

  2. cspoststaff says:

    I’m sorry, but we have not been able to find the article you are referring to. We’ve done a search on Ray Peavey’s name and Avenue of Flags and it did not turn up on our website or in a digital file of stories. If you happen to know when it ran, we could pull it out. Or, perhaps you could be thinking of another publication, such as The Bugle.

  3. Carla Campbell says:

    You can not tell me that there is no one in that town that doesn’t know about this. I was very little and I remember. Here let me help you a little bit now do some more homework.

    Raymond and Wilma had four children, Vera Grace, Christy Mae (died at birth), Craig Allen and Wilda Ray Peavey. Craig is alive.

    Ray died in 1991 he was laid to rest in Elmwood Cemetery along with his wife.

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