Ellen Peoples, 97, of Portland watches her American flag from her garage. Her son said, “She always flies the flag. It’s that generation.”

Not counting the parakeets, Ellen Peoples has lived alone for years, and would have it no other way.

Ellen Peoples’ son said he “had no idea” how to get to the top of her 20-foot flag pole to make the rope repair.

But at 97 years old, fixing things when they break can get a bit complicated.

So when the rope on her 20-foot flagpole finally gave up the ghost after years of service – and a couple of weeks before July Fourth – she called her son. Alan Peoples bought her the flagpole 10 years ago when his mother moved into the cozy home on Allen Avenue in Portland. And, every year, he buys her a new American flag.

“She always flies the flag,” he said. “It’s that generation.”

Alan Peoples, who is usually the one to raise and lower the banners, knows how his mother likes to see the Stars and Stripes fly next to a Marine Corps flag in memory of her late husband, a World War II combat veteran who died in 1973.

Alan Peoples often swings by his mother’s house and takes her shopping and to doctor’s appointments. But repairing the flagpole was a tall order for the 61-year-old real estate broker.


“I had no idea how to get up there,” he said.

Luckily, his mother knew of a bunch of guys who are always around, and, boy, do they have quite the collection of ladders.

” ‘Maybe the fire department will do it,’ ” he said his mother told him.

A caretaker for Ellen Peoples phoned in the request, and early Tuesday morning, Ladder 34 pulled up in front of her pale-blue ranch home.

She was thrilled.

Firefighters Ron Giroux Jr. and Jesse Peters repair the flagpole at Ellen Peoples’ Allen Avenue home in Portland on Tuesday. “Any of our guys would have done the same thing,” said Giroux. “I just happened to be on duty.”



Seated in a plastic lawn chair Wednesday in her garage, Ellen Peoples beams a day after Portland firefighters helped her salvage a flag-flying Fourth of July tradition she holds dear.

After chatting for a few minutes with the firefighters, Peoples went out to her garage, where she likes to open the bay door and watch the world go by from a tan plastic chair.

Seated in her usual spot, she watched as the heavy truck’s outriggers beep-beep-beeped into position and the aerial ladder swung toward the shiny golden ball atop the flagpole.

At the high end of the ladder was Ronald Giroux Jr., a six-year veteran of the department.

“This is not a typical call,” said Giroux, who worked for a decade as a Lewiston police officer before he came to the Portland Fire Department.

“We do help people with a lot of different things, whether it’s neighborhood kids coming to the fire station to have their bikes fixed or put air in their tires. But it was the first time we fixed a flagpole,” he said.

After fiddling with the pulley and threading the rope through the flag’s eyelets, the flag was back in position.


Peoples beamed, and together, Giroux and firefighter Jesse Peters saluted the newly hung banner.

Having a fresh flag, and a place to fly it, is still an important part of his mother’s daily life, Alan Peoples said.

Portland firefighters Ron Giroux Jr. and Jesse Peters from Ladder Company 34 join Ellen Peoples in a salute to the flag Tuesday morning after they fixed the rope and pulley system for her flagpole. Peoples, the widow of a World War II veteran, wanted to raise a new flag this Independence Day as she does every year.


The fire department was there for about half an hour, Giroux said. After the repair, Ellen Peoples talked with the firefighters about her husband’s service aboard the USS North Carolina as one of a number of Marines assigned to a Navy destroyer that fought all across the Pacific theater.

Giroux said it’s the type of call that he and other firefighters are happy to respond to, but that doesn’t get a lot of publicity. He said the fire company even gets the occasional cat-stuck-in-tree call.

“Any of our guys would have done the same thing, I just happened to be on duty. It didn’t take very long, so it’s something we jump on to help a citizen in the district,” he said. “We are part of the neighborhood and part of the community. A lot of the stuff really goes unnoticed.”


A post about the good deed on the department’s Facebook page saw brisk traffic Tuesday, and by Wednesday it had racked up 2,700 “likes” and counting, which astonished Ellen Peoples, even if she isn’t quite sure what Facebook is.

“I can’t believe it,” she said, when told of the number of people who responded to her story. “That’s a lot of people.”

Giroux and Peters might have stayed longer after the repair. But another call had come in, this one about a suspected drug overdose.

“Right back to business,” Giroux said. “That’s helping people too. Gotta look at that.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:


Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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