Clouds loomed over Purdy at noon Monday, with a stiff breeze and an occasional raindrop spitting down.
Paula Canady looked up to see a fresh new American flag fluttering in the sky.
“What a perfect day,” she said.
For the 49-year-old Peninsula School District employee, replacing the tattered Stars and Stripes that used to fly at the intersection of state Route 302 and Purdy Drive Northwest was intensely personal.
Paul Fatland, Purdy’s unofficial mayor and Canady’s father, had the flagpole erected in 1987 to provide a symbol of pride for a community he feared may lose its identity to nearby Gig Harbor.
But 30 years later, the original 10-by-15-foot flag atop the pole was gone, replaced by a smaller version much the worse for wear.
So Canady put upon herself to honor the date of her father’s death — March 27, 2000 — by displaying another 10-by-15-foot flag.
Among the 20 or so people on hand were Canady’s two sisters, Pamela Walsh, 42, of Graham, and Penny Barney, 38, of Wauna. Canady had given her sisters bright yellow scarves that matched their dad’s old tow truck fleet, but Barney had her one-upped, wearing one of his shirts embroidered with “Call Paul’s Towing” on the back.
Barney had fond recollections of when Fatland built the flagpole with Curtis Wainright, his childhood friend, and when he gave a speech from a lectern during its dedication.
Wainwright, 83, said Monday that his friend was a “very special person” with a gift for humor.
“My dad was amazing in the community,” Barney said. “He did so much for free for people. Everybody has a story.”
Among the stories is Canady riding in her dad’s tow truck as he’d go out to calls, often helping out people he didn’t end up charging.
And for Canady, replacing the tattered flag turned into a story of its own.
Custody of the flagpole turned muddy after Fatland donated it to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post as he became too sick to maintain it. Canady struggled to figure out who maintained the site, and nobody else knew.
“I received permission from all the people who said they didn’t have ties to this to not call the police on me,” she said with a laugh.
A couple of Gig Harbor firefighters lowered the old, tattered flag, which Assistant Chief Eric Watson said was “pretty tired” as he folded it up. The firefighters will eventually burn the flag, along with others too damaged to be flown.
The firefighters then helped Wainright raise the flag as Fatland’s daughters held it off the ground.
By the time the flag was raised, the sisters held each other as they started to cry.
“It’s breathtaking. It’s everything I wanted it to be, everything he would want it to be,” said Canady, who still calls Purdy home, as she gazed at the flag. “This is going to bring a smile to my face every time I drive by it.”