MANATEE -- Lowell “Pete” Peterson of Bradenton served proudly in the U.S. Navy.
But for patriotic flair, perhaps nothing tops his wife of 61 years, Floy Peterson, who wears red, white and blue July 1 through July 31 every year.
It’s the least she can do, she figures, to honor the men and women who have served across the span of time to keep America free.
Floy Peterson wore a red-white-and-blue silk scarf Sunday as she listened to organist Dennis Crowley, the music director at Faith United Church of Christ, perform his popular one-man concert, “A Celebration of America.”
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July is the month that many churches, nursing facilities and other institutions celebrate America.
“I was in the car and realized I didn’t have my colors on and I told Pete to put it in park,” said Peterson. “I couldn’t go to a patriotic concert without any red, white and blue.”
Not everyone designates July as their patriotic month like Peterson does, but everyone can listen to some patriotic songs on their stereo or attend a concert during July to remind them of America’s legacy of freedom, say the Petersons, members of Faith United on State Road 64, a mile west of Interstate 75.
“I think it is important for a country to have many patriotic songs,” Floy Peterson said after the nearly 90-minute concert attended by 40. “In World War II, they made up songs like crazy. For the wars we are in now, they have made few. There were also some peace songs in World War II. Patriotism doesn’t just mean war. It means peace, too.”
Crowley, 70, is a music historian as well as an accomplished organist and pianist.
“Many of our country’s patriotic songs were done out of patriotic feeling during the natural stress of war,” Crowley said. “When the nation is at threat, the songs pour out.”
Interestingly, during the Vietnam War, songs continued to pour out, but were framed by the social protest movement, Crowley said.
“I can’t think of a truly patriotic song from the Vietnam era because there was so much protest,” Crowley said. “It was not a time when Americans were coming together cohesively. The patriotic songs come when the country is pulling together against a common enemy.”
But World Wars I and II Desert Storm and the 9/11 assault have all produced a mother lode of patriotic songs, Crowley said.
He performed many of those Sunday, including “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin, “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood, “America, the Beautiful,” by Samuel Ward, “Point of Light” by Thom Schuyler and Don Schlitz and “Voices That Care” by David Foster and Peter Cetera.
“‘God Bless America,’ sung by Kate Smith, was extremely popular in War World II and Kate Smith sang the song for 40 years,” Crowley said. “‘Over There’ was popular for both world wars.
‘Voices That Care’ is about veterans coming back from war and the idea is that we do not question why you went, we just welcome you back,” said Crowley, who gave his audience snippets of history between numbers.
Crowley also digs up patriotic songs that are rarely performed.
“I want to bring these great songs back,” he said.
He performed “American Patrol” by F.W. Meacham, “American Legion March” by Arthur Pryor, “Bugle Call Rag” by Eubie Blake, “This is My Country” by Al Jacobs, “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!” by George Root, “Pomp and Circumstance” by Edward Elgar and, one of his favorites, “The Stars and Stripes Forever March” by John Phillip Sousa.
“Many people don’t realize it, but ‘Stars and Stripes’ is the official song of the United States,” Crowley told the audience.
“It was a lovely concert,” said Floy Peterson.
“I’m for sure going to get my husband some- thing red, white and blue for his birthday in August.”