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Farewell to the Fallen

The flag-lowering ceremony is "just a military tradition," says Col. Buddy Deverell, who oversees the four-cadet flag detail.

It's not a common practice at schools, however. At Benedictine it began two-and-a-half years ago when much-loved basketball coach Warren Rutledge died after 43 years at Benedictine and the school lowered the flag to half-staff.

"Do we do that for our alumni?" new headmaster Rickey A. Colb asked Benedictine faculty. No, he was told. But it seemed like a good idea.

So the school now lowers the flag every time an alumnus dies. Sometimes the ceremony takes place on the day of the funeral, if they're notified in time, and "sometimes we'll just do it in memory," explains Jeff Roberts, director of advancement, even if the death occurred a month ago.

Residents who live in the area sometimes still wonder what's going on, but Roberts says, "I think that most of the people around here have caught on … that our flag is at half-mast fairly often."

Benedictine does not hear about every death, but "when you're a school that's 90 years old, you have a lot of alumni that pass away," Roberts says. A couple of months ago, four alumni died in one weekend. The flag was lowered four times.

It's a meaningful experience for students, Roberts says. "Number one, they realize people are mortal." Although deceased alumni are usually advanced in years, sometimes they are still young. Recently, the man honored was only 29.

"Being a student at Benedictine is being part of a fraternity that's never going to forget you," Roberts says. "They know the same thing's going to happen when they go."

— M.S.S.

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