Pratt man engineers special device to keep his flag flying freely.
Flying the American flag on Memorial Day is an American tradition, but Pratt native Tom Webb has set his own tradition of flying Old Glory every day in the front yard of the home he and wife Dorothy share with family pets at 202 North Main Street.
“It’s my way to honor America,” said Webb, who used his engineering talents to design a unique display device that keeps the flag from tangling around itself so that the flag is always unfurled and waving in the wind.
Webb, who graduated from Pratt High School in 1960 and returned to Pratt three years ago after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, designed the flag holder using two sections of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe.
One section serves as the base and the second section -- from which the two and one-half by four-foot flag is draped -- attaches to the base at an angle, completing the set which Webb markets for $50.00.
On Monday, several of the flag sets will likely be noticed around town as they have been gaining in popularity, according to Webb.
Webb makes the flag sets in batches of six, which takes him about six hours to complete and the 77-year-old retiree estimates he has made about 200 since he designed his own a dozen or so years ago.
“I only use flags made in America to assure top quality,” said Webb, who has outfitted a workshop in the backyard with all the tools he needs for this and for his other passion of creating stained glass art.
Webb came by his love for things glass as the son of Allen and Lynn Webb who were partners with Ellis Webb in founding Pratt Glass in 1939.
“It seemed we lived and breathed glass when I was a kid and I still live and breath glass,” said Webb.
The 77 year-old former Lockheed Electronics engineer now channels his affinity for things glass by creating stained glass pieces from pictures or ideas presented to him by family and friends. He also creates unique works for marketing, including some which incorporate sections he cuts from glass plates. Sue’s Ultimate Embroidery at 206 South Main displays and markets Webb’s stained glass designs.
Recalling his engineering stints with IBM and later Lockheed Electronics as systems’ engineer, Webb said he was involved with the Appollo 8, 11 and 13 Missions and the Space Shuttle craft while he was based in Houston, TX.
“Appollo 8 got to the moon, but didn’t land,” Webb reminisced. “Appollo 11 was the first one to land on the moon.”
Webb returned to Kansas in the 1980s. He accepted employment with Ft. Hays State University in Hays, retiring in 2008 as director of telecommunications.
The Webbs let their travel spirits loose when he retired, RV-ing in the southwest and enjoying jeeping.
Since returning to Pratt about four years ago, both Tom and Dorothy have become active in the community. They raise much of the own food in their backyard garden where the hen-house Tom built is occupied by two Rock Island Red hens and two Speckled chickens, keeping them in fresh eggs.
Dorothy has channeled her love of baking into a home-based business, Dorothy Bakes.
“She’s especially known for her angel food cakes made with 13 egg whites," Tom said. “And she is popular with diners at Pratt Senior Center whenever she brings home-made treats to share.”
Tom is one of the founding members – with Bette Skaggs and Raymond Dawson -- of the Pratt Parkinson’s Support Group which meets at 11:30 a.m. the second and fourth Fridays of the month at Pratt Regional Medical Center.
Tom also drives the Pratt Transportation mini-bus part time and both Dorothy and Tom congregate with other seniors for the Senior Exercise Program Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9 a.m. at the Blythe Family Fitness Center, sponsored by Parkwood Village.
“I do think Pratt is every bit as nice of a place as it is when I was growing up,” Tom said. “It’s good to be back home."