By Alexander Dworkowitz
On New Year’s Eve, one of Hattie Adler’s most precious belongings was stolen.
Like many Americans, Adler had an American flag up on her porch on 5th Avenue in Whitestone in the days following Sept. 11.
The flag that Adler chose to hang had been draped over the coffin of her husband, a World War II veteran, when he died eight years ago. Adler held onto it as a reminder of him.
On New Year’s Day, Adler woke up to find the flag gone.
“Besides being a patriotic sign, it was my husband,” said Adler, referring to the symbolism the flag embodied for her. “It was a memorial I had for him. That someone would do this is a very depressing thought.”
But on Friday, Adler was presented with a gift to help make up for her loss.
Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) gave Adler a 3-by-5-foot American flag, which had flown over the U.S. Capitol building for several hours in March.
“I’m very touched,” Adler told Avella.
Adler met her future husband in her reading club in 1941. The club usually met indoors, but one day the group decided to take a boat out to City Island so members could on the water. A young man named Hyman Adler, who never had visited the club before, decided to attend.
“The first time I saw him, I said, ‘That’s the one for me,’” said Adler.
Later that year, the two got married.
Hyman Adler was an engineer for the U.S. Army, and after the United States entered World War II, he was sent to Los Alamos, N.M. to work on the development of the nuclear bomb.
For nearly three years, Adler lived without knowing her husband’s location, speaking with him on the telephone every once in awhile.
“They always told me that the calls were being monitored,” she said, speaking of the U.S. Army phone operators.
With her husband gone, Adler spent the war time working with the Red Cross disaster unit and taking classes at Columbia University.
In 1951, with Hyman Adler still working as an engineer, the two moved to Whitestone. Hyman Adler eventually turn to work as an engineer in the private sector, and Hattie Adler began teaching at PS 149 in Jackson Heights, where she stayed for 26 years.
In 1994, Hyman Adler, the father of three sons, died. Adler continued living in the same home, where she now lives with one of her sons.
After her flag was stolen, Adler met Avella at a meeting at the Whitestone Hebrew Center in January. She told the councilman her story, and he said he would see what he could do.
Avella placed a call to U.S. Rep Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who made the arrangements for the flag.
The councilman said Adler was not the only homeowner who had a flag taken from her in Whitestone.
“I’ve heard of a couple of incidents where they’ve been stolen from private homes,” Avella said.
Adler, retired but still active as a volunteer dispatcher with the Whitestone Community Volunteer Ambulance Service, said she was glad to receive the flag from Avella.
Although wary about having it stolen again, Adler said she planned to put the flag back on her porch.
Adler said she was thankful for Avella’s and Crowley’s contribution.
“People are very thoughtful,” she said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.