After a one-year hiatus, the nation’s oldest Flag Day parade returns to Appleton. And with it, comes an important role for World War II veteran—and retired FVTC instructor—Oliver “Ollie” Lerum.
While the Parade Grand Marshal is always the United States Flag, the Flag Day parade committee selects an individual each year to be the flag’s escort. This year, that someone is Ollie, who will celebrate his 96th birthday the day of the parade.
“I was in the first Flag Day parade when I was in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1950,” Ollie explained. “I thought that I’d like to be in it one more time so I called the parade committee. I was told someone would call me back and thought that was the end of it. A few weeks later, they called and asked if I would like to escort the flag.”
Ollie understands the magnitude of his role. Along with his six brothers, Ollie served in World War II where he was stationed in Japan and Korea. When he returned home, Ollie enrolled at UW-River Falls where he earned his degree in Agriculture Education and Science. In 1950, he started his first job teaching WWII veterans on-the-farm training at the Appleton Vocational School.
Program demand diminished after four years and Ollie moved on to teaching Agriculture in the Seymour School District.
In 1967, the FVTC district was established and Ollie was asked to start an Agriculture program. Ollie created the college’s Agribusiness program and taught Farm Business Management to young farmers who were just getting started. He also was instrumental in starting the FVTC Farm Tour.
Ollie retired from Fox Valley Technical College in 1987. In his 34 years of retirement, he’s learned a few things outside of the classroom and freely shares his wisdom with others.
“I do not encourage people to wish for retirement,” Ollie offered. “When I was teaching at the technical college, I had the best job in the world working with young folks. Don’t wish for retirement. Be happy on the job.”
His love for education is only surpassed by his pride in his military service.
“My daughter is driving me in a convertible as I escort the flag,” Ollie said. “It will be an honor to be a part of this parade for a second time, and to do it with my daughter.”
Want to see Ollie escort the flag? The 2021 City of Appleton Flag Day Parade is June 12 at 2:00 p.m.