By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, April 29 — Christie Baker remembers her late husband Jerry saying, “I wish someone in Stanley would do this.”
When the couple would drive back and forth through Elkton en route to Jerry’s medical appointments in Charlottesville, he would admire the banners hanging from utility poles honoring the small town’s veterans. In their travels, the Bakers had seen similar displays in Edinburg and Mount Jackson.
“He used to look at me when he said someone should do this, and I was like ‘we’re a little busy with [your health issues]…I don’t have time right now to do that,” Christie remembered. “But when Jerry passed, on one of many sleepless nights, it came to me again.”
On Nov. 10, 2021, Christie secured a letter of support from the Stanley Council to begin ordering banners to honor local veterans like the ones in surrounding localities. Before the end of the year, she had around 50 banners reserved and by the time she joined the town crew to start hanging them this week, the count had grown to 105.
“We’ve had people approach us since we started,” Christie said on Thursday. “We’ve been at it non-stop…the rain slowed us up a little on Tuesday, and the we stopped early on Monday because it got really hot on us, but we should be able to finish by the end of the week.”
A few more may be added in the coming weeks, as at least 10 additional banners have been ordered, bringing the new total to 115. However, Christie had to cut off new orders on Friday because the process takes a couple of weeks to complete. The banners will be displayed for the entire month of May to mark Memorial Day, and new orders may be placed to join the display in November to recognize Veterans Day.
The entire project is being funded by families and individuals requesting banners and donations that cover the costs of the brackets that attach to the utility poles. The Town is supplying staff to help put up and take down the banners twice a year.
“The best way to see them all is to take a leisurely walk,” Town Manager Terry Pettit said. “It’s hard to see them driving…even driving slowly. So we suggest folks take a walk through town and read each name.”
Pettit stated that the veteran banner project is just another in a long list of grass roots, citizen-driven initiatives that have been improving the local community for the past several years.
“This is like the dog park, the performance center, the playground for Nick…a person came forward, raised the money, and it didn’t cost the town,” Pettit said. “We feel like we need to take advantage of the opportunities for these projects that people have come forward with.”
It started more than a decade ago, with the community rallying around the local library after it was dropped from the Massanutten Regional Library (MRL) system. Donations and a renewed sense of volunteerism fueled the formation of the William Kibler Library — and from that project have been ripples, building up to waves of new projects such as a skate park (paid for with donations), a monument to displaced families from national park land in Ed Good Park (regional grassroots effort), a memorial to 9/11 with a piece of steel from the World Trade Center (donated), a new performance center (paid for in large part with one anonymous donation and corporate sponsorship)….and more recently, a proposed dog park and playground.
“I’m just fulfilling Jerry’s wish,” Christie said this week. “I have truly enjoyed it, and I have learned a lot about the veterans in our community.”
Storing the banners in a spare bedroom at her house for the past few months, the organizer of the project has worked hard to “keep families together” in their display along Main Street from DR’s Quick Stop to the Food Lion shopping center. She also tried, when possible, to place banners where veterans lived.
However, Christie says that she couldn’t have done it without a “great team”, like the police and public works staff that helped with the installation. She sent out a special thanks to Cindi Banach at the Page News and Courier for helping secure images of veterans, and of course to her “right hand” during the process, her niece, Sabrina Bosley.
The long line of faces dotting Main Street, including one prisoner of war, is meant to provoke feelings of pride, inspiration and community — and for some, it’s already accomplished its mission.
“So proud,” Christie said, describing what she feels when she looks at the line of banners. “I was such a proud wife of putting Jerry’s up myself because this was his wish.
“I can honestly say I had a lot of tears that came down over the past week.”
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