By Carol South
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — Joe Johnson is descended from veterans and himself is an 18-year military veteran, so he knew he wanted his grandfather's American flag to hang in a place of honor.
The 48-star flag from 1939 has a rich history, having flown over the Michigan state capitol on Pearl Harbor Day. It was treasured by his grandfather, Ronal Bauder, a sergeant who served in World War II and received it from his best friend. The story is that the two were later painting the capitol's interior and his friend got the flag.
Johnson moved to Traverse City in April, and he and his family decided to donate the flag to the local Veterans Affairs clinic.
The flag formally was presented to the clinic on Oct. 19 in honor of Bauder, as well as the maternal grandfather of Joe's wife, Jeni.
"We could have put it up in our house, but it belongs here," said Johnson of the flag. "This is where all the vets are."
"We're losing our World War II vets and our Korean vets and I think it would be nice for them to see this here," he added.
Stephanie Young, acting director of the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw, accepted the flag for the Traverse City veterans outpatient clinic.
"We will proudly display it on behalf of all veterans," she said.
The donation came about thanks to a community effort spearheaded by Marcie Newton, co-founder of Angel Ambassadors in Petoskey. The nonprofit organization's mission is to help veterans and raise awareness about veterans' needs.
"Frankly, he didn't think anyone cared about it," said Newton of Johnson's hope to donate the flag, which needed to be mounted, framed and protected. He received prohibitive cost estimates ranging from $500 to $600.
"I told him, 'Let me work our magic, that's what we do,'" Newton said.
Thanks to a local radio station's publicity, three area businesses stepped up to help. Steve Wagner of Deering Tree Service donated the bird's-eye maple wood. Mark Magee, owner of Betsie River Canoes and Campground, handcrafted the frame, and Twin Bay Glass donated the glass, and employee Jeff Mills assembled the final framed display.
Angel Ambassadors provided a memorial plaque, which reads "In Honor of All Veterans of All Wars." The engraving also names Johnson's grandfather and his grandfather-in-law, Robert Haven, Jr., a U.S. Navy commander who also served in World War II.
"It really was a labor of love and now the flag is going to be in a place of honor," said Newton. "All (Johnson) wanted was a place to hang this flag forever."
For more information on Angel Ambassadors, see www.angel-ambassadors.org.