Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Sea of Stars and Stripes: Denton man’s passion for patriotism on display

Denton business owner and community advocate André “Frenchy” Rheault has more American flags than anyone you know. And he’s making sure every single one of them is waving proudly in a neighborhood, business, or street near you this Fourth of July.

For over 20 years, Rheault, 76, and his team at Frenchy’s Lawn and Tree Service have taken the term patriotic to new heights by personally placing 3×5 American flags anywhere and everywhere throughout the city — starting with the long median in Frenchy’s south Denton neighborhood of Forrestridge and continuing to nearby churches, Golden Triangle Mall, businesses, and other buildings. Then there are his hard-to-miss bright orange company vans and Dallas Drive property, which are always decked to the brim with flags.

He expects to display close to 300 flags this year, if not more — many of which were already up weeks before July 4.

“We intend never to leave a flag behind, so we try our best to place them in as many unique places as possible,” Rheault said. He was already displaying flags for Flag Day on June 14. “I’ve always been a big flag person, and I discovered long ago that while many patriotic people like me are out there, not everyone puts flags out. I try to encourage everyone to be a little more patriotic — I hope that when they see mine, it reminds them to get their flags out and display them proudly.”

He added, “We put them up a few weeks before July 4 and then leave them up for about a week after. That way, people see them for more than one day. Patriotism isn’t just one day … it’s every day. We should fly lots of flags every day.”

Rheault was quick to point out that he’s not the only one responsible for proudly displaying the red, white, and blue every holiday season, which means Dentonites and visitors could expect to see even more flags beyond what he’s been doing. He praised several local businesses, neighborhoods, and organizations, including the local Rotary clubs, for stepping up with their American flag efforts.

“Between us, it quickly becomes an incredible flag presentation,” he said. “My heart skips a beat when I see all those flags.”

Rheault was born in the French-Canadian community of Bideford, Maine. He entered the Air Force in 1965 right out of high school and was almost immediately given the Frenchy nickname. According to his company website, people he met in the service who were unfamiliar with French had trouble understanding that Rheault was pronounced “row,” so he eventually accepted the pronunciation of “ree’-alt.” He found it was easiest of all, however, just to be “Frenchy.” He served as an air traffic controller and spent time in far-off places such as Vietnam, Korea, and Japan before retiring as a Master Sargent in 1985 and moving to Denton with his wife, Teri.

To say Frenchy loves his country and community would be an understatement. He is constantly supporting Veterans organizations and spreading heartwarming community messages on the side of his vans for everyone to see.

“Being in the military, you’re automatically patriotic … at least, that’s what I think. It doesn’t matter how old you are,” he said. “The flags are a way to set that example for others and make a difference in their lives.

“Don’t get me wrong; it’s time-consuming. But someone has to do it — and I love it.”

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