Mount Union Cemetery flagpole
Old Glory is again flying over Mount Union Cemetery after an old flagpole came down this past spring. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

The American flag is again flying high over Mount Union Cemetery. Thanks to a generous donation and through the work of volunteers and a contractor, a new flagpole has been erected to replace the old one that fell to the ground earlier this year. The Stars and Stripes made its ascent on the new pole for the first time on Dec. 3.

“We felt that the veterans, their families and all who came to pay their respects should continue to be honored by the presence of the flag,” said Bill Caffey, who with his wife, Brie, donated $800 toward the effort. “So many have sacrificed in service or in support of the servicemen and servicewomen who are at rest here in the Mount Union Cemetery that it is appropriate that Old Glory should be present to remind us of the great country they fought to preserve.”

The old flagpole came down shortly after Memorial Day. Mount Union Cemetery Association board president Fran Miller set a ladder up against it during an attempt to repair a light on the pole. Unknown at the time, the pole had rusted through at its base.

Miller climbed up the ladder and then rode it to the ground as the pole went down.

“It was very unnerving when I noticed that things were moving in ways that didn’t seem right,” Miller said about the experience. “The light I was attempting to work on began moving up the flagpole and the ground began moving beneath me. It was when I saw the ground getting closer that I realized what was happening and that I was going on an unplanned ride.”

Luckily, Miller escaped injury.

“Fortunately, the ladder helped guide the flagpole down between the rows of monuments so the flagpole, ladder and I all landed on the grass at the same time and I rolled away,” she said. “It was all over before I even had time to panic. Picking myself up off the ground and realizing I wasn’t hurt I thought, ‘that was an awesome ride! Don’t want to do it again.’”

Volunteers work on the hole where the new flagpole would go in. (Photo by Janet Cornelius)

The flag could be saved but board member Warren Evans took the pole to the metal scrap yard. Janet Cornelius, the cemetery association’s sexton, said Miller ordered a single-piece anodized black aluminum pole but it took several weeks to arrive with supply chain issues.

On Nov. 4, Philomath Rental brought up a large auger and punched the hole for the concrete base. Miller, Kevin Cornelius and a cemetery neighbor, Don Watson, worked together with the auger operator to get through the rocky soil.

“We tried one spot and ran into solid bedrock and had to move the location west a few feet to avoid it,” Janet Cornelius said.

Four days later, Philomath Rental and the same volunteer crew mixed concrete and filled the hole around the plastic pipe that holds the flagpole.

“It was quite cold at night for several weeks and we left the concrete covered until it had thoroughly cured,” Janet Cornelius said.

Volunteers then got the pole upright, shimmed it until it was straight, added a bit of sand and the project was completed.

In all, the project cost between $1,400 and $1,500, Miller said. Donations added up to $1,000 with the balance paid out of the association’s operating funds.

The area also now includes a seating area with two benches thanks to a donation by board member Hazel Stratton. Both the seating and pole match with a black finish.

A short ceremony occurred on Dec. 3 with Miller and Bill Caffey raising the flag.

“It was great to see the flag flying above the cemetery again after not having one all summer,” Miller said.

Caffey said he and his wife decided that “this was a small way that we could pay tribute for the benefit of the whole community of Philomath.”

(Daily Scoop is a blog published by the Philomath News. This blog often contains news items but also could include opinions of Brad Fuqua, publisher/editor).