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World War I vet honored with flag donation

Anna Hayden watches as members of the Littleton Fire Department raise a flag she donated to the Department in honor of her father, a World War I veteran. The flag once draped his casket during his funeral. Art McGrath. (click for larger version)
May 26, 2010
LITTLETON—Anna Hayden believes the American flag should be seen, not folded carefully and stored so she recently donated one to the Littleton Fire Department.

The flag now flies in front of the Littleton Fire Station and is in honor of a World War I veteran—her father. The flag draped his casket during his funeral in 1993.

"Dad would like Old Glory to be flying, not sitting on a shelf," Hayden said last week at the Fire Station.

Hayden, a former English and Latin teacher at Littleton High School (she retired in 1991 after 30 years), said she had driven by the station and noticed the flag flying out front was rather tattered. She still had the flag from his father's funeral sitting on the top shelf in her den and wanted it to go to good use rather than collect dust.

Hayden's father was John C. Cook and he served in the U.S. Army during World War I, spending most of his time in the Washington, D.C., unlike his brother.

"There was always a little rivalry," Hayden said. "Uncle Frank served in France."

Cook died in 1993 at the age of 96. After World War I, Cook, a Keene native, moved to Littleton to open the first Woolworth's in town.

Even as a child, Cook reminded his children of the importance of patriotism. Bringing her and her sister to Memorial Day parades, he pointed out the old men marching. They were some of the remaining Civil War veterans. His own grandfather fought in the war and had been imprisoned in the infamous Libby's prison, before being paroled and eventually serving as a master musician at Appomattox Courthouse, site of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at the end of the Civil War. Service was never far from Cook's thoughts and now isn't far from his daughter's mind either.

That tradition of service was carried on by various family members, including two sons-in-law who were in the Navy during World War II, a grandson who served in the United States Marine Corps and a great grandson who served in the U.S. Air Force.

Hayden's husband, John, in addition to serving in the Navy, also served for 18 years as a volunteer fireman in Littleton. The flagpole in front of the station was erected in his honor and has a plaque with his name in front of it.

The Department's Lt. Bill Brusseau, a former student of Hayden's, noted the deep connection of her family with the Department and thought it appropriate her donated flag fly atop the pole in her husband's memory.

"I felt awfully good when I donated that," Hayden said.

She said her father, while he would have preferred his flag to be flying, probably wouldn't have thought himself or his service worthy of a story.

"He was very subdued and unassuming," Hayden said.

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