District officials spotted Old Glory straightaway, returning to their offices at Forest Street and Locust Avenue on Friday after a blustery winter storm that brought gusts of up to 50 mph to New Canaan.
Those high winds had separated an American flag from its pole on the district’s leased property downtown and flung it into the upper branches of a nearby tree, where it was torn apart by more gusts, too high for district employees to reach.
Cheryl Stolba, an administrative assistant to the New Canaan Public Schools’ director of finance and operations, contacted the property’s manager immediately.
“I wanted to see it corrected as soon as possible, it just seemed a shame to have the flag hanging that way,” said Stolba, a longtime district employee and daughter of the late William Stolba, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II.
When she heard that a veteran who worked in the office building across the street had seen the discarded flag and was saddened by the sight, “that was even more impetus for me to get someone to deal with the flag properly,” Stolba said.
Yet it would take until this coming weekend for the building manager to get a bucket truck on site to retrieve the flag. So on Wednesday, Stolba thought to ask whether New Canaan Fire Department could help. She phoned the firehouse on Main Street and “they were here in minutes,” Stolba recalled.
The firefighters “could not have been nicer, and when I explained the situation they said they absolutely would come and respond.”
Asked what prompted him to send the men to assist in retrieving the flag, Petrone said simply: “They called and asked for help.”
The damaged flag now will go to a VFW for proper disposal, Vitti said.
According to Peter Langenus, commander of VFW Post 653—who led a rifle company in Vietnam as a U.S. Army captain and served as a colonel during Operation Desert Storm—when flags such as this one are turned in, they’re disposed of properly at an annual ceremony, through incineration, by local Boy Scouts Troop 70.
The flags that are handled properly during the campfire ceremony include any that are turned in during the year and those collected in preparation for placing fresh American flags at the gravesites of U.S. Armed Forces veterans interred in New Canaan cemeteries.
“The important thing is—I don’t care whether it came from an owned or rented building or from a flying saucer, the deal is that they should be disposed of properly,” Langenus said. “And if this poor flag was stuck in the branches of a tree for a couple of days, that’s horrible.”
According to Stolba, the bucket truck still will be useful this coming weekend in order to replace the cord that raises the flag on its flagpole because it’s “all damaged and twisted” from the powerful storm.
Stolba said she was aware of the proper way to dispose of a damaged American flag. Asked where she learned it, Stolba said, “Oh, I think at my father’s knee.”