Joe Radin, known as Beavercreek’s flagman, can be found seating within the booths of Beavercreek’s Frisch’s Big Boy, scanning the customers with his eyes. Not to ease drop, but to look for military vets. Since his wife’s death four years ago, it’s become his mission to show vets his appreciation for their service by presenting them a small handcrafted flag. To date, he has presented over 3,400 flags and has another 6,700 in production. His flags can be found in California, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.
“No one has ever thanked me for my time in the service,” Radin says. “I volunteer at Hospice and they had a pattern for the flag holders. I thought that would be neat to make them and give them to vets.”
“Joe gave us one of his flags and I can’t say how much we appreciated it,” Beavercreek Frisch’s customer Phyllis Cox said. “We have it proudly displayed in our house.”
Radin grew up in Missouri where his dad owned a saw mill. He went to school until the 8th grade in a two room school house. After leaving school, it was just assumed that he would work at the saw mill for the rest of his life. “But, things change,” Radin said. In 1951, Radin joined the U.S. Navy Reserves, where he served as a engineman until 1955. He was sent to Bainbridge, Maryland then to Mayport, Florida on a crash and rescue boat. He was 22-years-old. “I was just young enough to be overly confident,” he said.
“While I was working on the crash and rescue boat, there was a plane that crashed in the water. We were sent out there to drag for remains. The pilot’s father come down and was on the crash boat with us. We never found the plane or the victims of the crash,” Radin said.
A year after his service, Radin was on a bowling league and was in a tournament at McCook bowling alley, when he met the woman of his dreams. In 1956, it was the largest bowling league in the United States. Radin and his young lover were wed on March 2, 1957. At the time they married, his wife was working as an operator of the electronic adding machine in an accounting office in Beavercreek. He worked at APEX machinery. They bought a house in Beavercreek, he still lives in it, and had three wonderful children. Radin eventually retired in 1997 as a model maker to take care of his wife. She had developed dementia prior to her death.
“My wife and I had 55 good years. I can’t complain about that. Someone told me that I was going to have a hard time getting over her, but I didn’t. I had six years of her being sick to prepare for it. I knew she was going to pass. Her mother and aunt died from dementia, so I knew the outcome. I just kept telling myself that it was for the best that she go,” Radin said. “I know it may sound silly, but it helped me.”
During his wife’s illness, he received help from not only his family, but from Hospice and Greene County On Aging. After his wife passed, he decided to volunteer for both agencies. While volunteering, his idea of the flags became a reality. “I have a little workshop in my basement. It’s nothing fancy. But, it’s not the machines you have, but what you do with them that matters,” he said. He calls his workshop his therapy room. He spends hours at a time sawing, cutting, sanding and assembling the handmade flags while smoking a cigar.
All the wood is donated and recycled. He receives scraps of wood from a Beavercreek cabinet maker and Hospice. He also receives a very nice price for the flag stickers at a local Beavercreek printing company. These donations make it financially possible for Radin to continue making his tokens of appreciation and pass them out to area vets.
He has employed his friends from other localities to help pass out the flags. On the bottom of the flag casement, it identifies that Joe Radin handcrafted the flag.
“There are some vets that won’t accept them. But, there are others that really appreciate them. So much so, that they cry. I gave one to a man from WWII and he told me that I was the first person that ever thanked him for his service. Some say that the flags are supposed to be presented when you die. I say, these flags are meant for when you are still living. They are just a token of my appreciation,” Radin said.
His search for military vets pushes forward and he plans on making them and handing them out to vets for as long as he can.
So, the next time you visit Frisch’s Big Boy in Beavercreek, look for the man with an American flag on the table and don’t be shy- stop by and say hello and thank his for his service.