LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Nearly every night, Laurel County native Ron Ingram can be found in his wood shop. After he pulls out a piece of 200-year-old red oak from a recently-replenished pile, he immediately gets to work, cobbling and gluing and painting until the reclaimed wood starts to look like an American flag. In the process, he feels relaxed and gratified.
“And patriotic,” he said, “One hundred percent.”
On Saturday, Ingram, 63, left his Winchester-based shop and came to Laurel County to speak at the Daughters of the American Revolution Veterans Day ceremony.
“It has become a deep passion for me,” he said, addressing the crowd of about 50. “It’s become one of the greatest things I could ever do to show my thanks.”
Ingram started making wooden flags after Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, he got a call asking if he had spoken to his daughter, Emily. Emily and her husband Matt Ginter, a baseball player for the Mets, were in New York City awaiting that night’s game against the Yankees.
That morning, they were within five blocks of the World Trade Center.
Unaware of what had happened, Ingram went into the kitchen to tune into the television.
“When I got in there, I saw the second plane hit the building,” he said. “I went wild.”
But soon thereafter, Ingram and his wife Sarah got a call from Emily.
“She said, ‘Dad, don’t talk, just listen. We’ve just got 15 seconds to talk before all the satellites get turned off,’” he recalled.
Emily was safe, but covered in soot and running toward safety with Matt.
Later that night, Emily called again, this time telling her dad she’d just exited the subway.
“She said, ‘We’re in front of the World Trade Center and there is no World Trade Center,’” he said. “She said everything was dark, but for one light.”
Its glow poured down on an old American flag “just torn to pieces,” Ingram said.
The next day, Ingram went into his wood shop and crafted a flag out of old wood.
Soon thereafter one of Ingram’s patients — Ingram is an allergist by profession — noticed the flag and asked if he could make him some. “He was a retired Marine. I said, ‘Sure, how many do you want?’” Ingram said.
Much to his surprise, the Marine, hoping to distribute the flags to veterans and families of military personnel, asked for 30 of the pieces. Later, he came back and asked for 60 more.
Today, Ingram has made more than 8,000 flags, which, through the Marine Corps League and other branches of the military, have been gifted to service men and women around the world, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and the Pentagon. Most recently, Ingram made a flag for each of the Vietnam veterans who attended the laying of the wreath ceremony during October’s Welcome Home festivities.
“I was drafted for Vietnam, but I didn’t get to serve because I had a defective heart valve,” he said. “This is the least I can do.”
Ingram makes the flags out of any type of wood he can find — old beehives, guitars, old steps, barns, shutters and roofs. All of the wood used is at least 100 years old, some of it dating back to the Civil War era.
He’s now made so many, he’s developed a reputation in Winchester, with friends and neighbors dropping off old wood on a regular basis to replenish his stock.
“I’ll walk out and there will be a pile of wood and I don’t know where it came from,” he said, laughing.
After the flags are assembled, members of the Marine Corps League pick them up to distribute them.
“You ought to see when the Marines come,” he said. “They will stand there and do a full atten—tion and do a real slow salute before they take them out of the trunk.”
As for when he plans to stop, Ingram shrugged.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never got tired of making one. Some are very emotional — especially when you give it to a mother.”
Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.