By DEE MOORE
For the Keizertimes

Lou Nordyke stoops over a broken flag that lies next to a grave at Claggett Cemetery. The retired Marine, a Master Gunney Sergeant, moves slowly, as he replaces the damaged flag with another. It’s a duty he has taken upon himself, honoring the deceased veterans who are laid to rest here.

The new flag flutters in the gentle breeze under the noon sun. Since the early 1990’s he has gone out to the cemetery on Flag Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and July 4th  to place flags on the soldier’s graves.

“I am 85 years old and getting younger every day,” he said with a self deprecating chuckle. He served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Lou Nordyke will put out flags at the graves of deceased veterans on Independence Day. (KEIZERTIMES/Dee Moore)

Nordyke makes a pilgrimage to the cemetery several times a week to visit his wife and mother-in-law and care for their graves. While he is there he will check on the military graves, and like today, he will remove and replace the broken or damaged flags that remain from visits made by family members.

He is often joined by his friend, John Anderson, also a veteran. Nordyke and Anderson have been friends for many years getting to know each other because of their wives friendship.

A native Iowan, Nordyke ended up in Oregon in 1980 after retiring from the Corps. He had been stationed in New Orleans and continued to live there after he retired, but his friend, an Oregonian, suggested that Nordyke move to Oregon where the economy was booming and jobs were available for the picking.

So, he and his wife packed up and sold their home, moving across country for the promise of a job. It wasn’t long after relocating that Nordyke found a job and bought a house in Keizer.

“I went to work at the penitentiary for 16 years,” he said.

He and his wife settled in and set about making Keizer home. They became involved in the local Elks club, the VFW, the American Legion and the Fleet Reserve.

When Nancy’s mother was looking for a place to retire, they suggested Oregon and then helped her relocate to the area. And when she passed away, they buried her in Claggett Cemetery.

“We came out to put flowers on her (Nancy’s) mother’s grave,” Nordyke said, remembering how it all began. It was a holiday, though he is not sure anymore which one it was. The veteran’s graves were bare. There were no flags, nothing there to pay tribute to their service and sacrifice.

“I said right there this is a no-no,” Nordyke said.

He went out and bought 100 small flags mounted on dowels. Armed and ready, he went out to the cemetery and placed flags at each veteran’s grave. He has not missed a holiday since.

These days the Claggett Cemetery caretaker buys the flags, though Nordyke continues to go and put them out, making repairs and cleaning them once they are collected.

It is the least he can do, to make sure their service is not forgotten.