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Old and Young, Two Tosans Take on New Memorial Flag Program

Decade-old project takes a new turn with personal tribute flags for purchase, an idea sprung from the always fertile mind of Dick Bachman and passed on to an eager Eagle Scout.

Dick Bachman is 81 and has done it all when it comes to community service.

Matt Barrett is 15 and just getting started in community leadership.

Together, they make quite a team.

Bachman served 24 years as a Wauwatosa alderman, and many more as a Parks and Forestry Commissioner and on other boards and in community projects. And it is thanks to him that American flags have waved from light poles along North Avenue almost since 9/11, when he conceived of the idea.

Now he has a new idea to ramp up enthusiasm for the flags, and with an assist from the Kiwanis Club of Wauwatosa, he's enlisted Matt, a sophomore at , to help make it happen.

Bachman has made up his mind to create a new memorial flag program, in which donors will pay for special flags to fly in respectful tribute to someone who touched their lives. At the end of the flag-flying season, each flag will be returned to the donor as a keepsake.

Matt is a Boy Scout and was in need of a suitable Eagle Project. Bob Gross of the Kiwanis knew that, and also that Bachman was itching to give a new twist to his North Avenue flags. He brought them together, and away they have gone.

"I heard about it from Mr. Gross, one of my previous scoutmasters," Matt said. "He had been talking to Mr. Bachman about it. We met and discussed it, and I wrote up everything I would have to do and got it approved."

Upgrading from silver to gold

The flags that have flown up to now wave from silver poles and are replaced only when they are worn out.

"Instead of silver poles, these will have gold poles with special flags with the names written on them," Matt said. "After one year, they'll be taken down and returned to the family.

"I think it creates a strong sense of community. It's to honor someone who's done something meaningful, and it's nice to see the patriotic flags flying on North Avenue."

The flags can be a tribute to anyone living or deceased, family member or not. Memorial flags will initially be placed along West North Avenue in the area around Swan Boulevard and proceeding east and west from there as numbers grow.

"It can be an honor, memorial or dedication," Bachman said. He bought the first three special flags himself and dedicated them to his children and their families.

There are places for 126 flags to fly along the avenue. They go up May 15 and come down Sept. 15. The program has always been supported by donations; the new memorial program requires individual donors to put up $100 toward their own tribute flags.

Create it, execute it, and pass it along

Because the donations must go first to City Hall, Matt's job involves a lot of communication and coordination. He will be notified when a memorial donation comes in, then he pick up the information on the tribute, get the flags and poles and deliver them back to the city for installation, all the while keeping close records of the transactions.

In the fall, he will do it all in reverse as city crews take down the flags. He will collect the memorial flags and see to it they are returned to their owners.

"It's also my job to get the word out, and then at the end of the year to hand it over," Matt said.

Eagle projects need to live on beyond their originators, and so as a Scout moves on he is responsible for lining up people to take them on. Matt has already done so.

"My part in running the project is only for the first year," he said. "Then it goes to the Venturing Crew.

"That's another scouting group sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, for ages 14 to 21 of all genders. So I'll also be training them."

Mr. Wauwatosa turns over the reins

As Matt begins a life that could take him to other leadership and community service, Bachman is slowing winding his down, including the flag program he created and oversaw for a decade.

"Kiwanis will take over from from me when I can't do anything anymore," he said. He's already made two Kiwanis members signatories to the city flag account.

Bachman has had to give up all his official city service as well – he finally gave up his house in Wauwatosa and in June moved to a retirement home in Menomonee Falls. He remained on the Parks Board to the last.

His beloved flag program, though, can't be taken away by any residency rules – only he can choose to pay it forward to others.

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How it works: Buying a memorial flag

To purchase a personal memorial flag for North Avenue send or deliver a check for $100 to:

Treasurer, City of Wauwatosa, 7725 W. North Avenue, Wauwatosa, WI 53213

Make out your check to City of Wauwatosa but be sure to write "Flag Account" in the memo field. Enclose a brief note to call attention that this is a donation to a dedicated account and specifically for a memorial flag.

Also, include a phone number where you can be reached so that the memorial information you desire can be verified.

Donations to the flag account for the ongoing non-memorial flags are also welcome. A number of wind-worn and sun-bleached flags must be replaced each year.

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