Arvin Goter has been the caretaker of New Home Lutheran Cemetery near Woodworth for about 30 years. He says when he drives near the cemetery he looks for the American flag on the cemetery’s flagpole.
“When I drive by that’s the first thing I look at is to see how strong the wind is, and I looked up there (Friday morning) and there was no flag,” he said. “So I drove up there and everything (flag and flagpole) was gone.”
The cemetery is located northwest of Woodworth, and Goter recalls last seeing the flag and flagpole on Wednesday, July 14.
The new 30-foot flagpole was installed at the cemetery along with the flag after Memorial Day, Goter said, because the flagpole in place was aging.
Goter said the flagpole was set up at the site so it could be taken out when necessary.
“It’s been up for about 40 years and nothing (has happened). It’s always been there and now all of a sudden somebody took it,” he said.
Goter said the theft hadn’t been reported to law enforcement.
“Figured it’s actually a small item but it kind of hurts the feelings of the community,” he said.
New Home Lutheran Cemetery is a small cemetery, Goter said.
“It’s an old German cemetery,” he said. There used to be a church there years ago, he said.
Goter said people give annually to maintain the cemetery and he plans to replace the flagpole with a new one and get a new flag. The old flagpole was put back up, he said, because a burial was expected and he wanted the cemetery to look nice for that.
Denise Hallwachs lives in the area and her parents and other relatives are buried in the cemetery. Her brother, Wes Leapaldt, is also a caretaker for the cemetery. Hallwachs said her father had served in the military and it hurt to think someone would take the flag and flagpole. She posted information about the theft on social media.
"We should be showing respect for everything the flag represents and not stealing it from a cemetery," she said.
Goter doubts the flagpole and flag will be found.
“I just hope the person that looks at the flag, when they look at it, they have a conscience, that it hurts their feelings like it hurts mine,” he said.
A $500 reward is being offered for information leading to the return of the flag and flagpole. Anyone with information can call 701-653-5850.