If you turn off West Street, onto a little side street named Bentay Dr., you will come across a small tree-lined street that has American flags merrily waving from all its lamp posts.
It’s a surprise to everyone from locals, to delivery people and visitors who happen upon it. And everyone wants to know how this little street got its patriotic flavor.
This year, those flags are in place thanks to the funding and industriousness of long-term Bentay Dr. resident Tom Foristel and his family. But Foristel makes it clear that he is simply following in the footsteps of a generous neighbor, who gave all the street’s residents a great surprise back in July 2010.
“On the morning of July 4th 2010, the residents of Bentay Dr. woke up and discovered that one of our neighbors—John Stubenvoll—had erected American flags overnight on each of the telephone poles along our street,” Foristel explained.
He said it was an unexpected and a wonderful surprise.
“None of us knew it was going to be happening and each of stopped in our tracks as we went out to pick up our newspapers or get into our cars and suddenly saw our newly decorated street,” said Foristel.
Stubenvall had purchased the flags and supports personally and had been out hanging them at 4 a.m. to ensure the flags would be in place to greet his neighbors first thing on the July 4th holiday.
Foristel said the surprise not only excited neighbors who lived on the street, but also became a talking point for everyone who happened upon their little corner of patriotic community spirit.
“It was an absolutely wonderful surprise for all of us and generated a ton of compliments from people who drove down our street over the next few weeks and months," said Foristel, who has lived on the street for 28 years. "Everyone commented on it and it was a wonderful thing.”
The flags hung all that summer but eventually took a beating from the weather. By the following July 4th they needed replacing.
That’s when the Knox family, who live on a small cul-de-sac at the bottom of Bentay Drive, stepped in and purchased and erected new flags in July 2011.
It was clear from then on that this little street would keep their flags flying.
In July this year Foristel and his family took on the tradition. Foristel says it was surprisingly easy to implement.
“The poles, brackets and flags can all be purchased in a kit from a hardware store, that anyone can install,” he explained.
According to Foristel, solid long-lasting flag kits can be purchased for around $30 each and can be installed without prior experience. Foristel said the $200 or so it takes to fund the entire annual program is a small price to pay for the good feeling it has created in the neighborhood and the pride it has generated for residents.
“It had us all talking to each other and joining together to make it work,” Foristel said. “Most neighbors walking or driving by would stop as they saw us installing the flags and say ‘thank you’ and tell us how wonderful it was. Then many of them would ask if they could chip in. It created even more neighborhood pride when visitors and mailmen and even the Fed Ex guy asked about it and commented on what a great idea it is.”
The generous initiative has generated an amazing feel-good program that everyone wants to take part in.
“Thanks to John (Stubenvoll), we now have an annual neighborhood tradition that has become a bonding experience for all of us on the street,” Foristel said. “There’s no doubt that John created something special. Our whole street takes great pride in seeing these flags wave over Bentay Drive!”
So Bentay Drive now waves a flag, not only for patriotism, but also for what one neighbor’s good feeling and initiative can bring to an entire neighborhood for years to come.