Giant flag sends Navy a message of thanks

  • Julie Muhlstein / Herald Columnist
  • Saturday, November 17, 2001 9:00pm
  • Local News

He wanted to hang a flag on the porch. That’s what Gordy Rose remembers. That’s what Americans coast to coast were moved to do after Sept. 11.

Rose had the same impulse.

"It just so happens we have a bigger porch," said Rose, a courier for Providence Everett Medical Center.

Porch? Make that a bigger wall — a huge wall — perfect for a mammoth American flag.

The west-facing wall of the hospital’s Colby campus is about to be a backdrop for one of the biggest flags around, thanks to an idea Rose had and a generous gift from a small Everett business.

Flag ceremony

The public is invited to a candlelight ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to dedicate the massive flag being hung on the west side of Providence Everett Medical Center’s Colby Campus. Gail Larson, the medical center’s chief executive, and a Naval Station Everett representative will attend the event at Northwest Neighborhood Park at Colby Avenue and 13th Street in Everett.

At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the four-story flag will be dedicated in a public candlelight ceremony in Everett’s Northwest Neighborhood Park, at the corner of Colby Avenue and 13th Street.

Right after the terrorist attacks, Rose talked with co-workers about the hospital putting up a flag, in part to honor the Navy.

"I just thought the Navy has been a really good neighbor. Sept. 11 spurred those thoughts," the 40-year-old Marysville native said. "Hopefully, sailors would see it as they come into port. It’s our way to say we support you."

Rose, who suits up each year as a hospital Santa, went to the administration, where his idea got quick approval from Gail Larson, the medical center’s new chief executive.

The trick was finding a flag.

Enter Dawn Stieler and her father, Nate Estis, co-owners of the Amazing Pole Holder, an Everett company that makes fasteners for flags, plants and other decor. When the hospital first contacted the company, Stieler said they didn’t make flags.

But an idea had been planted that went with Stieler and her father when they left Sept. 15 on a nonstop drive to the Valley Forge Flag Co. in Pennsylvania to pick up an order of 13,000 small flags to be packaged with their products. They had to drive because airline traffic was grounded.

At the flag-making company, Stieler mentioned that the Everett hospital was seeking a flag big enough to be seen from Navy ships. Coincidentally, she was told that someone had canceled a Valley Forge order for two huge U.S. flags.

Stieler agreed to buy the 20-by-38-foot flags for $1,300 each.

The big flags were shipped back, but Estis and his daughter stuffed their 13,000-flag order into their minivan for an amazing drive home.

"Our cross-country trip felt like a mission," Stieler said. "We met dozens of people in rest stops and at gas stations, and everyone was cheering us on."

"We were flying flags and had bows all over; we looked like a traveling parade. You can’t believe the camaraderie," her father added.

Once home, they donated one huge flag to Providence Everett. It was up to the hospital to figure out how to display it.

The flag will hang vertically on the wall’s upper-left corner, where it doesn’t obscure windows. All of us who have survived Northwest winters know a four-story cloth can’t be held by a piece of rope.

Bud McIrvin, manager of biomedical and facilities engineering services at the hospital, explained how Don Woodley, chief engineer at the Colby campus, designed brackets attached to a 4-foot parapet wall on the roof of the eighth floor. The flag will hang from the brackets.

Churchill Brothers, an upholstery and canvas company on the Everett waterfront, put grommets at the bottom of the flag, from which it will be attached by steel cable. The cable, McIrvin said, is anchored into the concrete wall.

"It’s so big; it’s almost a sail," said Lloyd Christensen, another hospital engineer.

A 250-watt halogen light, hooked to a photo cell to come on at dusk, will illuminate the flag from above, Christensen said, "and we might put more lights down below." He doubts there will be much "light pollution."

"But if it keeps the neighbors awake, they’ll let us know," Christensen said.

Those who have worked to display the flag are excited about its unveiling.

"My sons and my wife were down at Anthony’s (HomePort Restaurant) looking at the hospital, and I said, ‘Guess what? Next week at this time you’ll see a flag on that building,’ " said Christensen, who plans to bring his family to the ceremony.

Stieler, whose company will donate 500 small flags for the dedication, said the gift "is a small way of saying thank you to our service men and women."

And Gordy Rose, who started it all, said although the flag will hang from the hospital and honor the Navy, it belongs to all of us.

"It’s not Prov’s flag; it’s the community’s flag," Rose said. "We just have the biggest wall."

Contact Julie Muhlstein via e-mail at, write to her at The Herald, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206, or call 425-339-3460.

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