Nancy Cook tends Edgartown's flags
Nancy Cook tends the flags of Edgartown with love and respect. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, she raises and lowers the town's flags. The only exception is when it rains or the wind blows over 20 miles per hour.
On snowy days Nancy carries the flag under her coat. During a bad storm one winter several years ago she slipped and slid through the elements, but still completed her job. "I walked with snow up over my knees, but I got the flag up," Nancy recalled with laugh.
She begins a regular circuit every morning at 6 am. Ms. Cook starts with the flagpole at Cannon Ball Park, next to the Civil War Memorial on Upper Main Street.
Nancy Cook. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Her next stop is the World War I Memorial on the corner of Pease's Point Way and Main Street, followed by American Legion Post 186 on Katama Road, the Duke's County Court House, Edgartown Town Hall, and the Whale Memorial pole on the grounds of the Council on Aging directly across the street from Memorial Wharf.
Her final stop and biggest challenge is the flagpole atop Memorial Wharf overlooking Edgartown Harbor that is exposed to the full fury of the elements. In addition to the US flag, at the Wharf she also hoists up the POW flag and the State flag.
The flag at the Wharf comes down before sunset, except on July 4 when the crowds are just too much to contend with, and Ms. Cook leaves the flag up until 11 pm.
The job of lowering the flag in the stiff evening wind can sometimes take more than 20 minutes. "I always say, I won't let the pole beat me. It is just a pole," she said.
Since she must contend with seven flags she does not take the time to fold them in the official military diamond-shape fold. But there is no lack of care. Each flag is still neatly folded and placed in a bag, then a scallop box and then in the back of her 2001 Chevy S10, well concealed to prevent theft.
Ms. Cook, the mother of two and custodian for the Edgartown Town Hall, has been raising flags regularly since 2000 when George Luce, who tended the town's flags for more than 42 years, retired.
Her introduction to the proper care of the flag began a year earlier in 1999 when Mr. Luce, then suffering from a heart ailment, asked her to take care of the Town Hall flag because he could no longer handle the stairs.
The job has become a source of pride and joy. "I'd fight them if they tried to take it away from me," she said. Not that anybody would contemplate such a thing.
Raising and lowering these flags is not some rote exercise for Ms. Cook. It is an act that carries with it great emotion and significance. Ms. Cook said she often thinks of the military men and women fighting overseas.
"I tell you what," she says, "I like the job."
She hesitates when asked why, saying only that it is a challenge that makes her feel as if she is doing something that matters. "It makes me feel like I am doing something for the boys," she said, "even though I can't bring them home."