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History and Heritage

He Flew Their Colors

WWII Vet carries on flag ceremony to honor the fallen

Marvin Hume has a soft-spoken way about him. The Navy veteran's quiet afternoons now spent in the sleepy coastal town of Cape May, N.J. are a far cry from the deafening roars of Saipan 70 years earlier.

Hume, barely out of his teens at the time, found himself at the front lines of the epic Pacific engagement where shrapnel injuries nearly took his foot, but got him nominated for the Purple Heart - an award he quickly declined.

"I didn't want any part of an award for what I considered at that time as a scratch, and that applied to a lot of guys," he said.

Like many veterans from his generation, Marvin counts himself among the ranks of the lucky: he made it back.

Eager to put the war behind him, he embarked on a new journey: successful businessman. From engineer, to mineralogist to running a science and nature shop on Atlantic City's famous boardwalk, Hume's civilian life allowed him to call just as many places "home" as if he were still on active duty.

The modest structure at Sunset Beach in Cape May caught his attention when the building's owner announced plans to sell the property. The previous owner, a retired Army Colonel, faithfully raised and lowered Old Glory every day from the flagpole on the grounds. Hume readily agreed to carry on the tradition. It started out simple - Hume raised a couple of flags to honor his friends lost at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.

Something about that simple, daily ritual sparked an idea. Taking out an ad in the local newspaper, Marvin asked if anyone else would like their flag run up the pole.

A woman Hume had never met expressed interest in honoring her late husband - would Marvin perform the sunset ceremony with a flag flown in her husband's memory? That began a tradition that has continued for the last 44 years. Marvin would fly a casket flag of a different veteran in season (Memorial Day till the end of September) every single day. At night, to the tune of "God Bless America," the flag is folded and returned to the family.

"My father takes this very seriously," said Kathy Hume. "He once told somebody that his wish is that if he passes he wants to pass at the flagpole - that would be his ultimate dream."