In this Sept. 10, 2004, file photo, the "Freeport Flag Ladies" leave a campaign rally for President George W. Bush in Lewiston. From left are Carmen Footer, Elaine Greene and JoAnn Miller. Footer died Tuesday. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Carmen Footer, one of the Freeport Flag Ladies who for 18 years between 2001 and 2019 waved American flags each week on a corner in Freeport, died Tuesday at age 81.

Footer’s death was confirmed by her fellow flag ladies, JoAnn Miller and Elaine Greene. Footer shared a home with Greene in her later years, according to News Center Maine.

The flag ladies got their start in 2001, in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. In response to President George W. Bush asking Americans to light a candle for the people killed in the attacks, the three decided to go one step further and stand on a street corner in their hometown of Freeport and wave a flag.

What started as a one-off thing turned into 18 years of weekly flag-waving, as well as a period during the Iraq War when the ladies stood there every day. They usually wore flag-print shirts or red, white and blue jackets to match. They were also asked to visit a range of patriotic events, from Fourth of July parades to military events.

In a December 15, 2015, file photo, Freeport flag lady Carmen Footer waves to a honking truck on Main Street. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Footer, Greene and Miller were all longtime friends from working in health care, and shared the sentiment that they weren’t “warmongers,” but rather showing support for troops and first responders. Though they appeared at events for politicians ranging from former President Barack Obama to former President Donald Trump, the three said they never took a political side — though they were occasionally met with anti-war and other protests across the street.

The trio also regularly participated as troop greeters at Bangor International Airport, among the hundreds of people who since 1991 have greeted every flight full of service members returning to or leaving the United States.

The trio decided to stop their tradition in 2019 due to age and health problems, though they did return for a flag wave on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 in 2021.

Information on Footer’s survivors or on a memorial service was not immediately available.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.