Trenton man has put out flags for 50 years

Colon Smith of Trenton places a new American flag at the grave of Glenn Jordan in Woodbine Cemetery in Ellsworth on Saturday morning. An Army veteran, Jordan served during both World War II and Korea. Smith has placed flags at area cemeteries for 50 years.

ELLSWORTH — Every year for half a century, Colon Smith has placed hundreds of flags at veterans’ gravesites around the city, accompanied and helped by his wife, Maxine.

This past Saturday, the Trenton residents were at it again, part of a crew removing old, weathered flags from graves at Woodbine Cemetery. Though it was a solo effort by the Smiths for decades, Maxine said in recent years other veterans from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 109 and local Scout groups have helped as well.

Colon, who served in the Navy from 1950 to 1955, starts the process by ordering the flags — a lot of them. He said he orders “seven and a half gross” (that’s 1,080, for those without a mathematical mind or a calculator handy) of the 12-inch by 18-inch star-spangled banners on wooden sticks.

Shortly before Memorial Day, the Smiths (and now others, too) get out to all the cemeteries in Ellsworth and make sure each veteran has a flag flying above his or her stone. Though Woodbine is by far the biggest, there are another 18 cemeteries that the flag-planters visit. Some of those have only one or two veterans in them, but Colon said they still get flags.

Old flags are gathered as new ones are placed, and the process is only half done when the bright, crisp flags are flying. Maxine said Colon brings all the old flags back to the house and removes each one — faded and often tattered — so that they can be taken to the American Legion for proper disposal.

Maxine stood by their truck parked at Woodbine on Saturday, surveying the handiwork of her husband and others as old flags were brought to the back of the vehicle and new flags were handed out to replace them.

The sea of red, white and blue waving in the breeze was a reminder that each flag represents someone who at some time in some place wore a uniform and served their country, and Maxine said she thought it was a beautiful sight.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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