History on display

Robert C. Rinehimer, Jr., 72, of New Market, stands by the linen flag in his home that flew over the Capitol during the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Rich Cooley/Daily

NEW MARKET — The family history on display in the home of New Market resident Robert C. “Bob” Rinehimer is a reflection of recent American history.

Rinehimer, 72, has birthday greetings from former Gov. Tim Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner, and Christmas greetings from George and Laura Bush.

His father was good friends with President Richard Nixon. And his grandfather would golf with President Dwight Eisenhower.

In an office off the hall, signed photographs of Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain smile from their frames on a polished table.

“They’re just nice mementos,” he said.

But the real star of his collection is on the wall of a guestroom down the hall — a linen American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol during Eisenhower’s inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20, 1953.

Eisenhower presented the flag to Rinehimer’s grandfather, J. Stanley Rinehimer, who kept it at home in Dallas, Pennsylvania, until he died in 1962.

His daughter-in-law, Rinehimer’s mother, kept the flag in a blanket chest until her passing in 2004, when the flag passed to Rinehimer, her only child.

He still has the blanket chest — now a base for his living room TV.

But the flag that welcomed Eisenhower into office was worthy of display, and Rinehimer said he was glad he had a wall long enough to accommodate it.

It looks big, at 12-feet long, but Rinehimer said the flag is standard size for a flag flown by any business or other facility.

What isn’t standard anymore is that the flag is made from linen, instead of polyester.

He said community members have asked him to fly the flag in parades, but Rinehimer intends the flag to remain pinned to the wall of his home until he passes it on to its next bearer — 18-year-old Cody Funk, of Broadway, whom Rinehimer said is one of his best friends.

“He knows he’s going to get the flag,” Rinehimer said. “I just think the world of him.”

Rinehimer taught English as a second language at The Highcroft School in Williamstown, Massachusetts, until he retired and moved to Edinburg in 1997 to be closer to friends. Now he works six days a week as a host at the CarMELized Restaurant in Woodstock.

A fan of history, Rinehimer said it’s important because of its truth.

“You cannot erase and alter history,” he said.

Still, he would like to see American politics harken back to how they were when George Washington was president and there was more productive conversation among those with competing points of view.

“I think it was best for everyone,” he said. “I just don’t think Washington [D.C.] is working for the people, and really now it’s a three-ring circus in there.”

Recalling the words of Benjamin Franklin, when asked if America would be a monarchy, Rinehimer said, “We’re giving you a republic, if you can hang onto it.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com