AMBOY — When Cecil Harrison passed away this summer, members of the American Legion Post #453 Poths-Lavelle in Amboy put their noggins together to think of a way to properly honor their brother at arms.
After some time, it became obvious of what the legion was going to do in memory of Harrison.
With the help of many, they created a flag disposal box at Veterans Park to honor “Cecil the flag man.”
“Cecil used to be one of our riflemen. When he got older and couldn’t handle the rifle anymore, he said, ‘I want to be the flag man,’” said Jack Mead, the commander of the Amboy American Legion. “Of course, don’t ever name yourself because then you’re stuck there. Cecil became ‘Cecil the flag man.’ He loved doing it.”
“Our dad’s responsibility at the graveside services for fallen veterans that the American Legion provides, was to hold the American flag,” the family of Cecil Harrison said. “A job he took very seriously and was extremely proud of, so it is very fitting that the Legion chose to memorialize him in this way.”
“He was a long-term legion member. He had been here at least 50 years. He was always very active in the legion, or at least as much as he could be,” Mead said.
“Dad was a very proud member of the American Legion; he loved his country and all that our beautiful flag symbolizes,” the family of Cecil Harrison said.
The Amboy Legion, named after Poths-Lavelle who died during World War 1, has been active in the community for 102 years.
And although the legion has had a long history in Amboy, they didn’t have a designated spot to collect retired flags.
“Steve Gardner, a member of our legion, said, ‘At our Veterans Park, we do not have a disposal for retired flags.’ We were going to use an old mailbox. We found that they’re almost impossible to find,” said Mead, who has been the post’s commander for the last seven years. “I’m sure there are junkyards full of them, but we couldn’t find any. Mike Hickey, another member of our legion, said there was a box at First National Bank that used be an old courier box. It was just sitting there. We got the box and Joe Dewey, owner of Becker Auto Body, volunteered to sand blast the rough exterior and paint it the American flag blue.”
Mead’s wife, Loreen Mead, painted the lettering on the box, just like she had painted the murals on the side of Becker Auto Body.
The lettering reads “Cecil Harrison Memorial, donated by his family, 2022.”
“I think it is important. People used to leave flags at city hall, the bank, or on our front porch,” Mead said. “It’s good to have one local area where everyone can correctly dispose of flags. The box has been there a month and you can’t believe how many people have saw the box and brought their retired flags that they have piled up at home.”
“We the family would like to thank the American Legion for this beautiful memorial honoring our dad/husband. He would be so humbled and proud,” the family of Cecil Harrison said.
The Cecil Harrison flag disposal box is one of many symbols of honor at Veterans Park. Created in 1919 because of World War I, the park has expanded over the years offering more ways of remembering loved ones and war heroes.
When the Friendly Motors building, which housed other businesses as well burned down, all that was left was slab of concrete. The land was donated to the legion, which gave it the opportunity to add to the park.
“The late Dennis Donna who owned Dreamscapes by Dennis, was talked into helping. He helped turn the rest of the burned wall into a wall for us to honor our veterans,” Mead said. “There are bricks at the park people can buy and put a soldier’s name on. He put in many volunteer hours to curve the wall and make the park look amazing.”
Veterans Park, which holds six service flags, is also routinely visited by City of Amboy staff and the 4-H Club. The American Legion pulls weeds, but the City of Amboy mows, and every spring the 4-H members help maintain the park in any way possible.
“It really helps us out a lot. We have so many people who help us out,” Mead said. “The Amboy Lions Club donate money and help us keep our flags always looking new.”
And now when they’re helping, they’ll also be taking care of the box holding the retired flags of “Cecil the flag man.”