By Bob Uphues
The interior décor of the Riverside Public Library got a little more patriotic recently, courtesy of a former U.S. Marine who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Displayed above the archway of the room just opposite the circulation desk from the Great Room is a large U.S. flag, donated to the village of Riverside by Donald Farnham, who was a 19-year-old private first class when he waded ashore onto the Japanese stronghold island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific in February 1945.
In March 2015, Farnham was back on Iwo Jima — his third visit since the war — to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle. The 90-year-old Riverside resident was among 28 U.S. veterans visiting the island. The party also included a Japanese veteran, a member of the Imperial Navy.
Farnham brought two flags with him, and both would be hoisted atop the flag pole at a memorial that marks the site of the famous flag-raising during the battle. When he returned from his visit, Farnham gave the smaller flag to the family of the late James Michels.
Michels, a Riverside resident, was part of a Marine patrol that made it to the top of Mount Suribachi, which dominated one end of Iwo Jima. Members of that patrol raised the first American flag on the summit. It was later replaced by a bigger flag, the one captured in the iconic photo by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal.
During his 2010 trip to Iwo Jima, which is again owned by Japan, Farnham brought a flag, but U.S. flags were not allowed to be flown atop Mount Suribachi.
"The Japanese own the island," Farnham said. "They set the rules."
Last year, however, things were different.
"I waited my turn, ran the flag up, took pictures, took it down and brought it home," Farnham said.
The larger flag, Farnham donated to the village of Riverside, initially hoping it would be flown above the war memorial in Guthrie Park in the downtown area of the village. Village President Ben Sells, according to Farnham, thought the library might be a better place to showcase it.
Library Director Janice Foley said the flag was a welcome addition to the space, where the library hosts movie screenings.
"We had a big enough space," Foley said. "It's a nice addition to the movie room — we were happy to take it."