PIQUA — Country and community pride is important to many Miami County residents, particularly one whose dedication to celebrating it has spanned over two decades.
In Northwood Hills, Becki Reinke is known as the Flag Lady as she decorates the neighborhood with 50 American flags every Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day holiday for last 24 years.
“It’s really nice that she does this for the whole neighborhood,” said Reinke’s neighbor Carol Anderson, who has been living in Northwood Hills for 40 years, said. “She’s never missed a holiday.”
Reinke has been decorating the neighborhood ever since she moved there, putting flags at every driveway and mailbox after getting inspired by the Heritage Festival in 1993. Reinke wanted to help make the neighborhood look festive as well as for the exercise.
“I never did this for any kind of recognition,” Reinke said.
Reinke even decorated the neighborhood in secret for a number of years, putting the flags up overnight so her neighbors would wake up to see the flags all around the neighborhood without knowing who did it.
“Now, I’m 62 years old, it’s way too dangerous to do that,” Reinke said.
The flags have even acted as a sort of comfort and a sense of connection between people in the neighborhood, such as after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when Reinke left the flags up all month, and between other people in the community at-large, such as after Corporal Samuel F. Pearson died in the line of duty while serving in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007. After Pearson passed away, Reinke took 50 flags to put up at Forest Hill Cemetery.
“All of our hearts were broken,” Reinke said.
Reinke also continues the tradition for new neighbors, and it helps them get to know the people living around them. Reinke said that it forces them to talk to their neighbor to figure out who is putting out the flags around the holidays.
“I’ve gotten to meet all of the neighbors over the 24 years I’ve done this,” Reinke said, adding that she sometimes introduces herself as “the Flag Lady” to new neighbors.
A lifelong resident of Piqua, Reinke has kept up this tradition even while she was pregnant with her children and battling breast cancer in 2005. Reinke and her husband also repair some of the flags when they get damaged from wear and tear.
“We all appreciate her doing that. It’s great for the neighborhood,” Carol Anderson’s husband Ole said.
The appreciation that her neighbors feel for Reinke is the same appreciation Reinke feels for her neighborhood, remarking on how well everyone takes care of their homes and properties.
“We’re a special neighborhood,” Reinke said. “We all look out for each other.”
Reach Sam Wildow at email@example.com or (937) 451-3336