CONSTITUTION - The honorary mayor of Constitution turns 92 in a few months and he hasn't lost his sense of humor.
"I have a little poem," Clifford Holden said when asked about his age.
"I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't chew, and I don't go out with girls that do-that's why I've lived to be 92," he said.
Clifford Holden, 91, checks the rope on the flagpole at the small parklet he’s maintained for more than 20 years in Constitution along Veto Road, just off Ohio 7 between Marietta and Belpre. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
It was Holden's next-door neighbor on Veto Road, Evelyn (Rhodes) Farley, who jokingly dubbed him mayor of Constitution a few years ago.
"Clifford is a wonderful person who has taken care of the flagpole and gazebo in our little pocket park along Veto Road for years," Farley said. "I grew up with him when we lived in the Gravel Bank area" (just north of Constitution).
Farley is a founder of what is now known as the Constitution Historical Society, a group dedicated to preserving the history of the area once home to Ephraim Cutler, an early community leader and legislator, and son of Manasseh Cutler, who wrote the Ordinance of 1787 that banned slavery from Ohio.
The small parklet area, just off Ohio 7, contains a marker bearing the history of Constitution, a wooden gazebo and a 30-foot flagpole with Old Glory flying at the top.
"Without Clifford we wouldn't even have a flagpole there," Farley said.
Holden moved into the Constitution area in 1962, and lives in a home originally built by a man named Lyman Hart.Fact Box
"I'm not sure how old the house is, but I was told Abe Lincoln was still alive when it was built," Holden said. "Lyman Hart was a federal agent who would round up Indians for the government and take them to a reservation in Oklahoma."
Holden and his wife, Marilyn, still live in the home on Veto Road, just up the street from the Constitution parklet.
An Army Air Corps veteran from World War II, Holden returned home and attended Marietta College, graduating in 1951.
"I worked for the (Internal Revenue Service) after graduation. We had an office upstairs in the U.S. Post Office in Marietta," he said.
His duties as an IRS agent included collecting money from local folks who hadn't paid their taxes-a job Holden didn't like too much.
"I decided that job wasn't for me," he said.
Later he began doing accounting work for Oak Mar, a local pipe and oil business owned by the Baron family.
"I had grown up around the oil fields, and as soon as the Barons found out about that they wanted me to keep working for them," Holden said. "I worked there for 60 years."
During that time he took on the responsibility of caring for the Jewish graveyard at Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta.
"I go there any time there's a storm, and at least once each month to see that the gravestones are all right, and I sometimes pull the morning glories down after they grow over the fence that surrounds the Jewish cemetery," Holden said.
His cemetery-tending skills may have played a part in Holden's decision to help maintain the Constitution parklet near his home, a job he began when the small park was built in 1987 to commemorate Ephraim Cutler and the area's history.
Holden kept the grass mowed around the gazebo and flagpole, and stored the American Flag at his home to keep it out of inclement weather.
"That original flag wasn't weather-proof, so we would only fly it on special occasions like Veterans Day, Memorial Day or the 4th of July," he said.
Holden said the original flagpole was also rusting and in pretty bad shape, so about three years ago he decided it was time for a new pole.
"I wanted a larger pole, and determined it should be about 30 feet high," he said. "We eventually got some pipe donated by Bobby Anderson, a local drilling contractor."
But the pipe was in two pieces, so Farley's son, Keefe Poling, welded the pieces together to make a new 30-foot flagpole.
After some calculations, Holden determined to be stable enough the pole would have to be set in a hole that was drilled 8 feet deep. Double J Drilling from Williamstown bored the hole, and Anderson sent a rig to help set the pole in the ground.
The flagpole was set, but Holden still had to raise and lower the old flag on holidays-weather permitting.
"One day I was trying to untie a knot in the old rope on the flagpole," he said. "A neighbor, Emily Webb and her husband, who live just up the road, saw me struggling with the knot and stopped to help."
Webb, a member of the local Edward Parish Chapter Colonial Dames of the 17th Century, said when she saw how difficult it was for Holden to raise and lower the flag daily, she decided installing a light on the flagpole would help eliminate the necessity to take the flag down every day.
"The Colonial Dames is always looking for a project-especially when it involves something historical, like the flagpole at Constitution," Webb said. "We thought it would also be a great way to help the community."
She contacted Farley and asked if the group could purchase a solar-powered light that could be attached to the flagpole and illuminate the flag at night.
"I searched and searched, and finally found a solar light we ordered from Denver," Farley said.
The Colonial Dames donated $140 to purchase the light, and Hilltop Auto Wrecking brought a lift workers to help install the solar light on the flagpole.
"The light was finally installed on Nov. 4," Farley said.
"But we couldn't have done it without Clifford and all those who donated the materials and services."
Holden still takes care of the Constitution parklet, but said he now gets a lot of help from neighbor Tim Glover who assists with the mowing and upkeep of the area.