Few people make such an impact upon their community that they are forever remembered for their community spirit and generosity.
The late Irene Cowgill, known as Barnesvilles Flag Lady was a larger than life character who loved Barnesville, gave generously and freely and always spoke her mind.
On Tuesday, June 19 approximately 40 people, including members of the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce of which Irene was an active member, family and friends, gathered to remember Irene and dedicate a 20-foot flag pole and granite bench installed near the Mothers Club Shelter at the Barnesville Memorial Park.
Beginning each spring and ending just before Pumpkin Festival time, American flags are placed on the Victorian style light poles lining Main Street.
The project was the brainchild of Irene, who was inspired by a town she and her husband visited in 1984. Despite the naysayers, she and husband Bill began collecting funds for the project. What began with the a donation of 36 flags has now grown to 92 flags.
Irene passed away in October of 2011 and the chamber continues to collect money for the flag fund. A month after her passing, donations in her memory totaled more than $6,000.
My Aunt Irene was the most patriotic person I ever met, said her niece, Jodi Wilson-Maddox. She was the neatest person. I was lucky to have her as an aunt.
Wilson-Maddox said Irene loved Barnesville and the people in it and never wanted to leave.
She respected all of you very much, said Betty Eddy, who came to live with Irene at the age of 16 so she could work in Barnesville.
Barnesville Mayor Ron Bischof and Chamber President and former mayor, Tom Michelli both said Irene was the first person they met when they moved to Barnesville.
She was a good friend and a good friend to Barnesville, Michelli said.
Irenes good friend, Frank Clem Williams also spoke. Irene was always there for us, he said.
Williams said Irene was part of a group of friends who met for coffee at Patricks Restaurant, where Irene began working as a young woman, earning 10 cents and hour.
She was a very generous lady who would do anything for you, Williams said. Her motto was, It is better to give than receive, he said.
Irenes good friend and classmate, Jean Davies shared memories from their senior year.
She was the greatest, most patriotic person I have ever known and this is a wonderful memorial to her, Davies said.
As a teenager she was a majorette, marching in all the local parades. In 2002, she was honored as the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival Parade Grand Marshal.
She was a member of the American Legion Post 168 Drum and Bugle Corps, a member of the Elks and the Barnesville Kiwanis Club. Irene supported many other local projects including the Amazing Playground and helped many, preferring to do so anonymously.
Irene cared for the graves of family members and the family members of those living out of town, caring for as many as 20 graves at a time.
She was popular among her fellow members of the Barnesville High School Class of 1945 who crowned her queen of the class at the 2010 Alumni Banquet. Some of her classmates shared their memories of her at the dedication.
We are not celebrating her passing, but her life, said Chamber First Vice President Bill Steedle. Her memorial is right where Irene would have wanted to be in the middle of everything at the park.
Steedle continued, Every time we see a flag flying in downtown Barnesville, we will think of Irene. I am impressed by how many people came today; it is a testament to the great lady she was.
Joel Braido, owner of Braido Memorials, was thanked for providing the granite bench. Chamber Secretary Barbara Roby prepared a lovely lunch for attendees.
Donations may be sent to the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce Flag Fund, 130 W. Main St., PO Box 462, Barnesville, Ohio 43713. For more information, call the chamber office at: (740) 425-4300.