BARNESVILLE - A ceremony suitable for the woman known as the "Flag Lady" was held Tuesday morning at Barnesville's Memorial Park.
That was when a 20-foot flagpole and a granite bench were dedicated to honor the late Irene Cowgill, who worked for more than a quarter of a century to obtain funds for flags which fly throughout the village's business district.
An estimated 40 people attended the ceremony planned by the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Serving on the board are Bill Steedle, John Rataiczak, Bill Knox, Tom Michelli, Donna Nelson, Nancy Mayo, Joel Braido and office manager Barbara Robey.
Photo/Courtesy of From the Heart Photography, Nancy Mayo
A BENCH and a flagpole to honor the late Irene Cowgill, who became known as “Flag Lady” because of a project initiated by her and her husband, Bill, was dedicated in a ceremony Tuesday in Barnesville. The Cowgills’ project was to raise funds so American flags could be flown throughout the village’s business district. After her husband’s death, she continued to raise money for flags in the project, sponsored by the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce. The sign with her picture will be displayed at future CofC events to raise money for the flag fund.
The ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance, which undoubtedly would have pleased the Flag Lady.
Bill Steedle, CofC first vice president, was the master of ceremonies, and among those participating were Barnesville Mayor Ron Bischof; Tom Michelli, CofC president and former mayor; Rataiczak; Betty Eddy, Cowgill's "adopted daughter"; and Jodi Wilson-Maddox, Cowgill's niece from Glen Dale, W.Va. Several persons in the audience also spoke.
Braido handled arrangements for the bench and the nearby landscaping.
The program concentrated on Cowgill and her work for Barnesville.
A patriotic cake, decorated with red, white and blue, was included among the refreshments served through Robey's efforts.
Cowgill's flag project, which begun in 1984, was inspired by a trip that she and her husband, Bill, took and saw flags flying on poles throughout one town. She thought Barnesville would look great like that.
The response from some others, however, was that the project couldn't be done. According to Facebook by the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Cowgill's reaction was: "Well, you don't know until you try."
She and her husband worked on the project for years until his death, and she then continued to raise funds for flags. The Flag Lady often was at community events with a can ready for flag donations, and she also collected aluminum cans to raise funds for the flags.
The project began with 36 flags donated by then-Congressman Douglas Applegate's office. As of last year, there were 92 flags flying in Barnesville as a result of the project initiated by the Cowgills. The flag project is officially sponsored by the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Cowgill didn't limit her activities to the downtown flag project as she was a working member of quite a number of organizations. In addition, she at one time marched with the American Legion Post 168 Drum and Bugle Corps and also supported the Amazing Playground Project.
She also rented out clown outfits and repaired the vintage outfits when needed. Cowgill herself sometimes wore a clown outfit to entertain at community events.
The Barnesville woman also took care of graves for people who lived out of town and had family members buried in the village. At one time, she cared for more than 20 graves.
Cowgill also helped people in need although she preferred to remain anonymous.
Her popularity among her classmates was shown at a reunion when she was crowned "queen" of the Class of 1945.
Cowgill was included in a special edition, "People Who Make A Difference," which was published several years ago by The Times Leader.
The energetic woman, who did so much for others, died in October 2011. The Chamber of Commerce asked for donations in her memory. A month later, the flag fund itself totaled more than $6,000.
Rataiczak, who was chamber president at that time, said, "This is a tremendous testimony to the person Irene was."
Although Cowgill is deceased, her glorious dream lives on with the "Old Glory" flying throughout downtown Barnesville and with the continuation of the flag fund.
Pokas can be reached at email@example.com.