Lindenwood “Flag Man” Dominick Papa has found its successor.
Papa, 87, has spent the last three decades traveling around New York finding old worn-out American flags and replacing them with new ones, but recently announced his retirement.
In his role as the “flag man,” Papa would ring the doorbells or talk to the managers of homes and stores flying ripped or faded flags and offer them new ones at no cost.
But as the World War II veteran got older, he found it more and more difficult to keep up with the job, so he decided it was time to pass the torch.
After an exhaustive search, Papa expressed confidence that he has found someone who loves the Stars and Stripes as much as he does, his building’s superintendant, Dennis Bermudez.
“He respects the flag, and that is most important,” Papa said.
Like his predecessor, Bermudez has served in the armed forces — two years in the U.S. Marines and two in the Army. Also like Papa, Bermudez feels the flag is not getting the respect it deserves.
“I told him ‘I’d be more than happy to take it over,’” Bermudez said about the responsibility. “I think our flag is not being flown the way it is supposed to. The flag is a symbol of America. It shows appreciation for those who served and those who make this country great.”
That is a sentiment Papa, who has known Bermudez for 25 years, agrees with.
“You drive around Howard Beach and you see all these homes with Halloween decorations, but they don’t have a flag,” he said. “You ask anyone when Halloween is, they know it’s Oct. 31. But ask them when Flag Day is. Most of them don’t know. It’s unfortunate.”
It’s June 14.
Papa began his 30-year quest to save and replace flags after he saw two of them thrown in the garbage. Besides seeking to replace worn-out flags, he also takes orphaned casket flags, which are draped over the coffins of service members who have died and given to the next of kin.
A former engineer in the Empire State Building, Bermudez is active in the Howard Beach community and a parishioner at St. Helen. He raised his children in Queens and loves spending time with his grandchild.
His job now will be to drive around the city and find flags that are worn out in front of homes and buildings, then offering new flags at no cost.
Bermudez said he and Papa did a “training run” last week and Bermudez will be heading out Saturdays to do his “Flag Man” duties.