There are many ways to publicly display one’s patriotism around the Fourth of July. For Norma Riker, posting American Flags along her fence seemed like a good idea. What she didn’t realize is how much attention the 98 flags would attract.
“I just thought that, ‘well, I’ll put one on every other post.’ I didn’t realize I had nearly 200 posts until I counted them.”
Riker said she called Coldwell-Banker Mark Campbell and Associates to ask if they’d allow her to use any flags they had left over from the 6,500 they distribute around Brownwood and Early each Fourth of July.
“I am so grateful to them. When I went to pick them up, they were going to give me 50, but when I got home there were 100,” she said.
The 86-year old Brownwood native says she tries to do something to decorate her home in a patriotic theme each year, and in the past has hung up the flag published in the Brownwood Bulletin (see page 10A today) as well as other smaller decorations like flag bunting. This is the first time in the 44 years she’s lived in her home that she’s ever put together such a large display, though.
“I usually have something, but I’ve never had flags all the way across the front,” she said. “For 42 years I’ve flown the Texas and U.S. flags out front on the flagpole. This year I just had the idea and I just thought it would be nice to do something different. I thought it would be nice to see how pretty it would look. My son came by and asked about where I got the idea from and I said ‘it was just mine.’”
Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are both special holidays to Riker.
“I never miss a Memorial Day service (at Eastlawn Cemetery). It has very special meaning to me. Remembering my husband is a constant thing with me,” she said. “The speaker at this year’s event said ‘this is not a day for buying.’ What a wonderful statement. We should concentrate solely on our military of today and the past and be grateful for what they are doing for us, and what they have done for us.”
Riker said she puts up the decorations every Fourth of July in honor of her husband, 1st Lt. David Noble Riker, who piloted a B-24 bomber based in Italy that was attached to the 15th Army Air Corps. He was shot down while flying over Budapest, Hungary. The two met while he was undergoing basic training at Camp Bowie.
“He had just been promoted to 1st Lieutenant. He was killed on April 13, 1944 on his third mission,” Riker said. “I did this to honor him, I surely did. I was a widow at 22. I never remarried. I never found anyone to take his place.”
Riker has two children, Ron who lives in Brownwood, and Judy who lives in Stephenville. She said her plans this Fourth are to travel to Stephenville to visit Judy and to catch a firework show or two.
In 1948, Riker and her then 5-year old son Ron visited the St. Louis National Cemetery and attended a memorial service there. David Riker was originally from Illinois.
Carl Lockridge of Bangs helped install the flags along Riker’s fence, which can be seen along the front of Riker’s property, which sits at the intersection of FM 2126 (Access Rd.) and FM 2524 (Austin Ave.).
When asked what message she would want people to keep in mind as they celebrate the Fourth, Riker didn’t pause.
“We should give thanks for our freedom and support our present military and past military – those who have gone on before. We should be so grateful for their protection out there.”