Bay Ridge

City names Bay Ridge corner for World War II veteran

Howard Dunn gained fame planting U.S. flags on sidewalks

June 5, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mae Dunn (seated) and her daughter Geraldine Martinez hold a replica of the street sign bearing Howard Dunn’s name. At left is Councilmember Vincent Gentile. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas
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A Brooklyn member of the Greatest Generation was lovingly remembered by city and state officials and Bay Ridge civic leaders at a touching ceremony marking the renaming of a street corner in his memory on Saturday.

The corner of Third Avenue and 78th Street was officially renamed “Howard Dunn Way” in a posthumous tribute to Dunn, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II who died in 2015. A new street sign was unveiled on the corner.

Dunn served in the Navy from 1944-1946.

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The corner was picked deliberately for the dedication because Dunn and his wife Mae lived nearby.

The Dunns moved into a house on to 78th Street between Third Avenue and Ridge Boulevard in 1959 and raised their family there. Mae Dunn still resides in that house. Mae and the couple’s daughter Geraldine Martinez attended the ceremony and helped pull the cord to remove a covering and unveil the new street sign.

Howard Dunn (1926-2015) became a beloved Bay Ridge icon 20 years ago when he single-handedly began a painstaking effort to plant U.S. flags on the sidewalks in front of neighborhood stores in an effort to show the community’s patriotism.

On his own, Dunn purchased American flags and proceeded to plant the flags on the sidewalks in front of stores on Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue and 86th Street.

His flag-planting project soon became legendary in the neighborhood as more and more merchants requested that he put flags in front of their shops.

“He planted hundreds of American flags on Third and Fifth Avenues,” Councilmember Vincent Gentile recalled. “It really was a great sight to behold.”

The street-renaming ceremony was made possible by the City Council, which passed a bill sponsored by Gentile to have the city pay an official tribute to Dunn. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill into law last year.

Gentile, who hosted the renaming ceremony, said Dunn was active for many years in veterans’ affairs, raised $30,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, visited wounded military members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington D.C. and gave guided tours of New York to wounded veterans visiting the city.

“There will never be another one like Howie,” said Gentile, calling Dunn by his nickname. With the renaming of the street corner, Dunn’s name will now be “a permanent part of our neighborhood’s history,” Gentile said.

“He was a giant and he impacted many lives. We have no idea how many people he inspired,” said state Sen. Marty Golden, who was a friend of Dunn’s.

Dunn was a member of the Amity Post of the American Legion and was a past Kings County commander of the American Legion.

In 2015, a few months before his death, Dunn served as a grand marshal of the Kings County Memorial Day Parade.

“Howie was a veteran’s veteran,” said Raymond Aalbue, an Air Force veteran who is a member of the parade committee.

Col. Peter Sicoli, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton, represented active duty service members at the ceremony. “Howie was a staunch supporter of our garrison. His name will be forever remembered at our fort,” he said.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis said the Greatest Generation is made up of “people like Howie who were willing to put their lives on the line.”

In addition to his military-related roles, Dunn was active in the Boy Scouts. He first joined the scouts as a 12-year-old in 1939, signing up for membership in Troop 321 at St. John’s Evangelist Church. His association with the scouts continued for the next 76 years. He served as a scoutmaster and was named an assistant district commissioner.

Assemblymember Pamela Harris said she looked up the meaning of the name “Howard” and was delighted to learn that it means “guardian of the home.” The new street sign means that Dunn “is literally going to be our guardian angel,” she said.

Dunn was generous with his time and energy, according to Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, who recalled that he paid her a visit early in her tenure and said he would assist her any way he could. “I was on the job less than a week when he came into my office and offered to help me,” she said.

“Howie Dunn really touched my heart,” Beckmann added.


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