July 2008 Issue
Ohioan - Ralph Bornhort
Uncle Sam Impersonator
PERSONAL: Bornhost lives near Sidney with his wife of 20 years, Madeline (they are both widowed). He has eight children, 17 grandchildren, and has been marching in parades and welcoming soldiers home dressed as Uncle Sam since 1988.
PATRIOTIC BEGINNINGS: “I was stationed on a battleship in World War II, and I had a pair of binoculars up in what they called ‘the crow’s nest.’ I was there for Iwo Jima and the Okinawa invasion. I was a surface lookout, so I just sat up there all day and watched it, like a movie. I actually saw the famous flag raising on Mount Suribachi [on Iwo Jima], but at the time I just thought ‘oh, another flag raising,’” he laughs. “But seeing our fleet of ships with their flags flying really impressed me; I got pretty patriotic.”
SAM I AM: “In 1987, I went to the Fourth of July parade in Sidney, and I noticed there weren’t too many flag wavers. I got to thinking that I needed an Uncle Sam outfit.” His sister-in-law agreed to make him his first costume. “I went back the next year, and won first prize,” he says.
CAST OF CHARACTERS: “It started out that I just had the outfit and a megaphone. Then once I got a farm wagon, and my four boys dressed in army uniforms and we reenacted the flag raising on Iwo Jima.
Another time we had a jeep, and my brother dressed up as General Patton.”
HIT PARADE: “I sing in the church choir, about 55 years now. So after the second parade, I got myself a generator and tape music.
I usually sing “Grand Old Flag,” “Yankee Doodle” and then I say ‘Is this a great country or what?’”