Editorial: Monday mix on serviceman; coral institute; farmers markets

  • Pallbearers carry the casket of Leonard F. Von Flatern Jr. for his funeral Dec. 28 at Our Lady Of Grace Church in Hatfield. He was remembered as a man of service to his family, community, country and God. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The American flags lining Main Street in Hatfield the last week in December were a fitting tribute to Leonard F. Von Flatern Jr., a man of service who began the holiday tradition of hanging flags around town more than 30 years ago.

Von Flatern, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Police, died of pancreatic cancer Dec. 24 at age 85 at the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst. During a memorial service Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Grace Church in Hatfield, the Rev. Robert J. Coonan said Von Flatern lived to serve his family, community, country and God.

After serving in the Coast Guard during the Korean War, Von Flatern worked for both the fire and police departments in Wilbraham before joining the state police in 1956 and rising through ranks to eventually command all field operations in the state. Among his more memorable assignments was serving on the security detail that guarded Pope John Paul II when he visited Boston in 1979.

Von Flatern was particularly fond of Hatfield, the farm town where he and his wife, the former Helen Szawlowski of Northampton, settled after they were married in 1959 and where they raised their children, Cynthia Von Flatern and Leonard Von Flatern III.

After retiring from the state police, Von Flatern became the chief security officer for the Kollmorgen Corp. (now L3 KEO) from 1981 through 1997. It was during that period that Von Flatern collaborated with friends Gerry Clark, veterans’ services agent for Hatfield, and Stanley “Buster” Symanski, owner of M&S Electric on Elm Street, to begin the flag-flying tradition.

Von Flatern worked with the town to find money to buy the flags, cared for them and used a bucket truck from M&S Electric to hang them. “The tradition was to let the people know that we’re honoring the veterans on that particular day and we do it several times a year,” Symanski said.

Clark added, “Lenny would actually inspect every flag as they came down and got put up to make sure they were not frayed or dirty. He stored them and inspected them all.”

During the service, Caroline Emery said of her grandfather, “He was truly a man who lived life to the fullest, and we can all honor his memory by doing the same.”

Indeed, Von Flatern will be remembered for a life of service, well-lived.

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An intriguing new endeavor at Mill Valley Commons will bring ocean life to Hadley this winter. The Pioneer Valley Coral and Natural Science Institute will host researchers from the University of Massachusetts and Northeastern and Harvard universities.

The 2,500-square-foot facility will house 15 tanks, each 96 inches long by 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep to hold about 1,500, 1-inch fragments of coral, marine invertebrates typically found in tropical seas. A total of 150 unique specimens of coral will live in 78-degree water at the institute.

It will be used for research, including potential treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as tasks such as water purification. It will also serve as a coral bank for wholesalers, and as a learning environment for schoolchildren.

It was founded by Roderick Anderson, executive director of The Springfield Institute, a think tank. One of his goals was to establish a center for community education and participation by underrepresented groups in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

We applaud Anderson’s initiative and hope the coral thrives in Hadley, far from the tropics.

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We’re glad that the winter farmers markets in Amherst and Hadley this season have successfully found new homes.

The Amherst market moved from Amherst Regional Middle School to the Hampshire Mall in Hadley, where it is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through March 17. The Northampton market relocated from Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School to the Senior Center at 67 Conz St., and is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through April 21.

Customers new and old have found the new sites, and farmers from as far away as Chesterfield and Warwick are selling their products. The markets remind us that agriculture is a year-round contributor to the Valley’s economy.