Flag Day might come and go unnoticed by many, but it's a major holiday for Edgemere resident Dale Grimes Jr.
Many people in Greater Dundalk have seen the patriotic efforts of Grimes even if they've never met the enthusiastic and knowledgeable vexillologist.
Grimes, over the years, has taken it upon himself to place 1812-era American flags on fences along overpasses over North Point Boulevard in a nod to the area's role in the War of 1812 and the Battle of North Point.
"Growing up in Fort Howard—which was once an actual fort, I grew up with a sense of history," Grimes said in explaining his enthusiasm and love for the Stars and Stripes. "And I just always thought our flag was beautiful."
He remembers being intrigued by a 49-star flag that was housed in a showcase at the Fort Howard Recreation Center.
In junior high school at the time, Grimes realized the flag dated to 1959, because it would have represented the nation after the admission of Alaska to the union in January of that year but before Hawaii, which became the 50th state in August.
"That flag really sparked my interest in the history of the flag," Grimes said.
He bought 45- and 46-star flags at a flea market, which innocently were the seeds of a collection that now includes more than 400 flags, banners and ensigns.
"Now, I'm mainly interested in flags made by Mare Island, and particularly those of World War II," he said.
With almost a father's pride, Grimes bristles at the notion that a flag company wrongly claims to have made the flag in the iconic image of soldiers hoisting an American flag on Iwo Jima during WWII.
"Annan Flag. Co. claims to have made the flag," Grimes said. "But Mare Island made that flag—the Mare Island markings are clearly visible" in a photograph of WWII veteran Ira Hayes posing with the flag.
Grimes buys flags online and, because so many people know him as a collector, they give him flags knowing they will be taken care of.
"They'll come to me and say, 'I appreciate what you do, and no one in my family has any particular interest in this so I'd like you to have it,'" Grimes said.
A teacher at heart—he's been a math teacher for Baltimore County Public Schools for 28 years—Grimes displays his flags and talks about their history and significance any chance he gets.
He shares his knowledge at schools, churches, historical societies and community events.
When the International Odd Fellows North Point Lodge No. 4 held its annual Memorial Day service at Fort Howard Veterans Park, Grimes was there with a small part of his collection.
His personal favorite is a 1909 Mare Island flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes. It was known as a boat flag, and was used on small boats used to ferry to land crew members from larger ships that had to anchor out in the middle of bodies of water because that was as close to shore as they could get.
His collection is housed in plastic storage containers that are labeled and stored in a room that his wife refers to as the guest room but he calls the Flag Room.
"But I don't want them to spend more time in those totes than they have to," Grimes said. "I like to get them out and share them with people as often as I can."
Asked why he collects flags and cares about them, Grimes said the answers are simple.
"I think it's the most beautiful flag in the world," he said. "Most flags are plain, with just three bars of color, and some are so ornate, the meaning gets lost.
"But our flag is so symbolic and most importantly, it represents the freedoms we have."