American Legion Auxiliary members Florence Falcone and her daughter, Claire Falcone, visit the gravesite of Katharine Lee Bates (author of America the Beautiful) to place an American flag at Bates’s headstone each year.
The Falcones are from Unit 21, one of the oldest Auxiliary units in New York. The pair visit Bates’s gravesite every year following their family reunion at Falmouth, Cape Cod, Mass., Bates’s birthplace. Bates was born there on Aug. 12, 1859.
In a letter to ALA National Headquarters, Florence said, “the words of her [Bates’s] poem-song describe her feelings of her love of our country after traveling to the state of Colorado.”
Bates was in the state for part of a summer, lecturing at Colorado College. It was her view at the top of Pikes Peak mountaintop that inspired the famous words to America the Beautiful.
She was a professor and a poet, and her poem eventually became the lyrics to the popular ballad still sang today. She first published her poem in 1895.
When the Falcones visited the gravesite in 2017, there were already flags surrounding Bates’s headstone. Florence added a bouquet of flowers as a finishing touch.
As the group looked around, they noticed the absence of flags on the graves some of our forgotten warriors. They – including Joseph Falcone, the youngest member of the group – began placing flags on servicemember graves that did not have flags.
A few of the servicemembers’ graves without flags included one from 1887 and one from 1965.
The group left the cemetery with a warmer understanding of the last line on Bates’s tombstone, “God shed his grace on thee,” The Falcones said in the letter to ALA NHQ.
Shortly after Bates’s death in 1929, efforts were made to establish America the Beautiful as the nation’s anthem. However The Star-Spangled Banner was chosen.
The duo plan to visit Bates’s grave again this month following their family reunion.
Much of this information was submitted to ALA NHQ by Alfred E. Falcone, past commander of American Legion Post 1092 and Florence M. Falcone, past president, ALA Unit 1092.