LOVES PARK – A northern Illinois World War II veteran who gives away free American flags every Memorial Day has raised $4,000 for a fund to keep the tradition going after he dies.
"My intent is to continue this until I die," Navy veteran Lee Hartsfield, 87, told the Rockford Register Star (http://bit.ly/1z2aOhw ).
Hartsfield said he wants to raise $25,000 for the flag program and he has an anonymous donor who will match that amount, giving him $50,000. Hartsfield's goal is to raise $5,000 a year for the next few years.
Hartsfield raises $3,000 a year to pay for the flags, which decorate veterans' graves. The flags are given out at the Field of Honor in Loves Park. This past Memorial Day there were 3,800 flags available.
The retired florist started the program in 1984 after Winnebago County cut funding for Memorial Day flags. He organized other florists to contribute to giving away the flags.
This past year Hartsfield added a .50-caliber ammo box near the flags if anyone wanted to give a donation. He says he received small donations along with $1,000 and two $250 donations.
Information from: Rockford Register Star, http://www.rrstar.com