Another member of the Greatest Generation reports for his final roll call.
Age was no barrier for Richard “Dick” French, who, at 87, set out to build a 20-foot flagpole in the yard of his Colorado Springs home to show off his immense patriotism.
For months, he talked up the project to family members and couldn’t wait for the weather to warm up so he could get started. On Easter, he planned to hold a ceremony for his family and raise a large American flag and flags for each of the military branches for which he served as a photographer in the 1940s.
He got to work Saturday, but the project was left unfinished when he suffered what was called a sudden “cardiac event” and died.
“It was exactly the way he wanted to go,” said his granddaughter, Laurel Barrett, 27. “It was a shock. My mom and I were the ones who found him.”
Barrett said French was a lively man with a great sense of humor. He was the kind of guy who would put a plow on his riding lawnmower so he could clear the driveways for the “old ladies” nearby who were younger than he.
“He had a joke for every occasion,” said his daughter and Laurel’s mother, Jean Barrett, 58.
He was stubborn, too. At 86 years old, he refused to let anyone help him re-tile his garage roof, Laurel Barrett said. He made a makeshift elevator to get supplies up to the roof, and did the project himself.[…]
A few years ago, French started throwing “flag parties,” basically his version of the Fourth of July – but held whenever he felt like it to share his love for his country with the youngest generations of his family.
“He would pass out flags and tell military stories and make everybody pose with the flag and take pictures,” Laurel Barrett said.
Pictures were involved with pretty much everything he did throughout his life, she added.
French was born in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 23, 1927. He spent 1944 to 1947 in the military at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he was a photographer for the Coast Guard, Army and Merchant Marines, Jean Barrett said. He took pictures of presidents and showed one to Cunningham of President Dwight D. Eisenhower visiting what was then Camp Carson.[…]
French grew increasingly patriotic as he aged, his daughter said.
“He didn’t like the way the country was being run now and it really upset him,” she said. “The madder he got, the more patriotic he got, and he kept saying we need to go back to the values we used to have. … He just wanted people to remember it was important to be patriotic.”
French had four daughters: Linda Shields, Janet Cooper, Jean Barrett and the late Mary French. He is survived by eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. His wife, Carolyn, whom he met at the age of 15, died in 2013.
When French’s family holds a celebration of life ceremony later in April, there will be a patriotic theme, and everyone will wear flag lapel pins, Jean Barrett said.
The flagpole project likely won’t be finished because French will be buried with the flags he planned to raise.
But one thing is certain: wherever she is, Laurel Barrett will always fly an American flag in her grandfather’s honor.