Museum District resident flies American flag to honor fallen ancestors

Posted at 6:15 PM, Aug 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-20 15:47:50-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Few things stand still in the Museum District. People move in and out, businesses come and go - but resident Penn Burke says one tradition remains constant - flying the American flag.

“It was the West End when I was a kid. The neighborhood has changed a lot as you can imagine,” Penn said. “It means a lot, I grew up here.”

The Burke family started flying the American flag shortly after moving in 93 years ago.

“As soon as they tear or have faded its time to replace them,” Penn said.

But patriotism isn’t the Burke’s only motivation. On July 28th, 1925 Penn’s grandfather, a nine-year police veteran of the Richmond Police Department was shot and killed on duty.

“It was not a great day for my grandmother,” Penn said, “He is part of my family, I never knew him."

Benevolent city leaders, businesses, and churches raised enough money to buy the Burke family this home at 100 N. Belmont. Officer Burke’s grateful widow, Penn’s grandmother, raised the flag as a symbol of ‘thanks’ while honoring the memory and sacrifice of her husband.

“Over the years they just thought it was the right thing to do,” Penn said. “I always heard great things about him.”

And so out of death, a lasting tradition was born. The Burke’s would buy the neighboring properties, and two more flags were added - and honoring fallen officers passes down through the generations.

Penn’s father, Milton, helped raise money to build the Richmond Police Memorial in 1985. Two years ago Penn joined the committee in charge of relocating the neglected and forgotten statue from the Coliseum to Byrd Park.

“My father was only two months old at the time of his father’s death,” Penn said. “I knew my grandfather and father were looking down on me and were proud that I worked on the project.”

Three miles from the Burke family home at Riverview Cemetery, Penn Burke regularly tends to his grandfather’s final resting place.

“His earthly remains are here, this is his home. He should be honored with a flag,” Penn said.

“I think he would genuinely be proud to know that his family has not forgotten in all of these years,” says Penn. “The flag is very important to me.”

Raising the Stars and Stripes - to the Burke family, it’s a tradition that’s unwavering.

“These flags will fly as long as these properties are in the hands of the Burke family,” Penn said.

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