By Mary O’KEEFE
On Saturday, American Legion Post 288 and Veterans of Foreign Wars 1614 honored Vito Cannella for his work on keeping Flag Week alive.
Flag Day was originally established in 1916 with a proclamation from President Woodrow Wilson. But a single day was not enough for Cannella and fellow Montrose leaders, including businessman Bill Bailey, Ledger Newspaper Editor Don Carpenter, Congressman H. Allen Smith and Crescenta-Cañada Rotary Club members. In 1965 the group was able to get thousands of names on a petition to recognize Flag Week and in 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson made it so with a proclamation.
Veterans of the American Legion and VFW wanted to honor Cannella, an immigrant, for his dedication to the American flag. Early Saturday morning the two veterans posts held a breakfast for invited guests to honor Flag Week and Cannella. Andy Gero organized the breakfast.
“We wanted to extend our thanks for Vito’s loyalty and dedication to our country and community,” Gero said.
Cannella told the audience of his love for America and the many years he has lived in the area.
“I arrived in Glendale in 1954, and it has been my home ever since. Although many people know me as a barber in Montrose, I was also the postmaster of Montrose in the 1960s when the Montrose Shopping Park, as we know it today, was born,” Cannella said.
This was the time of increased protests against Vietnam. This concerned the Montrose group specifically in regard to the honor of “our country’s most precious national emblem: the American flag,” Cannella added.
Cannella first contacted Bailey, a longtime friend, to create National Flag Week. They gathered more friends and civic groups and approached former U.S. Representative H. Allen Smith asking him to introduce legislation in Washington to recognize a week dedicated to the American flag.
This was done in 1966.
“So, what is the moral of this story as we gather today to celebrate patriotism?” asked Cannella of the assembled at the breakfast. “The moral is that out of small towns like Montrose, the dreams and goals of hard working citizens can be realized for our city, our county, our state and our country. In closing, please remember to display ‘Old Glory’ from Sunday to Saturday during the week of June 14 every year.”