Apr. 8—It was a lot easier for Bob McKenna to help put up 340 flags when he was in his 40s.
McKenna recruited fellow members of what was then the local Kiwanis Club in 1991, to place American flags up and down a 2-and-a-half-mile stretch of William Penn Highway through Murrysville on holidays like the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day and so on.
These days, the 74-year-old Murrysville resident continues the "Flags Over Murrysville" project up to 20 times per year, and was recognized Wednesday as Murrysville's 2020 Volunteer of the Year.
"A lot of us on staff and council have gotten calls over the years about the flags going miles and miles down Route 22," Council President Dayne Dice said. "We get a lot of really great applications for Volunteer of the Year, but this year, I think it was easy to go with Mr. McKenna, because it's such a wonderful thing for our community."
"Flags Over Murrysville" is marking its 30th anniversary in 2021, having migrated over to American Legion Post 711 when the Kiwanis Club ceased operations. Pre-fabricated sockets inlaid along the highway make the installation and tear-down a little less cumbersome.
McKenna credited the group of volunteers who have continued to show up regularly over the years.
"All I do is put a notice out saying, 'Hey, it's Memorial Day,' and I have a bunch of volunteers ready to come out and help," he said. "To be a volunteer in a community that has that type of support is phenomenal."
McKenna's son, Mac, who is on Murrysville council, said it's great to be able to recognize all the work his father and the other volunteers have done over the years.
"When they expanded Murrysville and put the highway in, my dad and that group pounded everyone one of those sockets by hand," he said. During upgrades to the highway in the mid-'90s, "Joy Somers, who was mayor at the time, went to PennDOT and made sure they included the cost of moving those sockets in the project budget," Mac McKenna said.
Individuals can sponsor a flag for $25 per year, which covers the regular replacement of worn-out flags, but also goes toward veteran charities to the tune of about $200,000 over the years.
Mayor Regis Synan said the project is emblematic of the type of community service Murrysville residents regularly undertake.
"(Chief Administrator) Jim (Morrison) and I get calls from out-of-towners all the time who are driving through and see the flags, and it makes us really proud as a community to be recognized like that," he said.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .