WWI veteran’s casket flag reunited with Middletown family 71 years later

The McIntosh family wishes this Old Glory could talk. What stories she could tell, the family believes.

It started 71 years ago when U.S. Army Sgt. Farris McIntosh, a World War I veteran, died of a heart attack and the Veterans Administration Regional Office in Cincinnati mailed a replacement American flag to his widow, Mildred, who lived in Middletown.

The casket flag was shipped in a brown cardboard box and addressed to the Middletown postmaster. No one knows what happened to the flag next.

Fast forward to earlier this month. A mother and daughter were scrapping in Trenton, which borders Middletown, and found the box. They were amazed when they opened it and saw the neatly folded flag stuffed inside. They contacted a Cincinnati TV station and after the segment aired, the story was forwarded to Dorothy McIntosh-Shuemake, 56, one of McIntosh’s seven grandchildren who lives in Middletown.

McIntosh-Shuemake was leery at first.

“Didn’t believe it,” she said.

But when she saw her grandfather’s unusual first name — Farris — printed on the box, she became a believer.

She contacted her brother, Bob McIntosh, 54, and they recently were presented the flag during a ceremony at the VFW Post 3809 on South Dixie Highway. The post commander has offered to display the flag, but right now it’s on Bob McIntosh’s dining room table.

After Sgt. McIntosh died, his wife took in boarders to help pay the mortgage. The family believes there are three possible scenarios for what happened to the flag: It was never delivered; Mildred McIntosh may have given it to a veteran who lived in her home; or it was stolen, then eventually tossed in the trash.

“Who knows,” McIntosh-Shuemake said. “She could have given it away. That’s the kind of person she was.”

Whatever its history, it’s home, and for that the family is thankful.

“When I saw the flag, I’m not sure delighted is the right word,” McIntosh-Shuemake said. “In awe is better. It was a beautiful thing to see.”

Her brother added: “Reverence. Just proud of what he had done. Men died for that flag and what it represents.”

Farris and Mildred McIntosh moved to Middletown because he was tired of working in the coal mines in Butcher Hollow, Ky., the same place made famous in Loretta Lynn’s hit song “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”.

He had “a rough life” in Kentucky and wanted better for his family, his granddaughter said.

He drove a truck for Cincinnati Gas and Electric.

McIntosh served two tours during WWI, in 1912 and from 1918-1919. He was discharged in 1919 after his only sibling, a sister, Nancy, died during the third wave of the Spanish flu pandemic. Since he was the only living child in the McIntosh family, the Army sent him home.

“Just like ‘Saving Private Ryan,’” McIntosh-Shuemake said of the blockbuster 1998 movie starring Tom Hanks.

McIntosh is buried at Woodside Cemetery in Middletown near his son, Julius, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

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