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To Ohio family, flag shredded by Florence symbolizes relative’s cancer fight

November 8, 2018

The American flag is beaten by Hurricane Florence's winds as it flys from Frying Pan Tower off North Carolina's coast. (Photo Courtesy of explore.org)

The flag flying atop Frying Pan Tower more than 30 miles into the Atlantic became one of the most iconic images from Hurricane Florence’s assault on North Carolina.

It flew for hours, shredded by the rain and winds, yet never tore loose from its pole.

For the Caruso family in Ohio, the flag’s resilience in the face of the storm’s continued onslaught reminded them of the valiant fight Kevin Caruso had waged against prostate cancer for four years.

“His demeanor never changed. He never showed, ‘Why me?’ He never complained. He never whined about it,” said his brother, Mike Caruso. “He’d always see light in the middle of a storm when no one else could.”

In a poignant coincidence, people watching the live cam at Frying Pan Shoals named the tattered flag “Kevin.”

“During the storm, [people would ask] ‘Is Kevin still there? Is Kevin still standing?’” Mike Caruso said.

Kevin Caruso, meanwhile, was clinging to life at his home in Charlotte.

Two weeks after Florence, the owner of the tower put the flag up for auction.

“Kevin never knew about this. So we put a bid on it, never really giving it much thought,” said Mike Caruso, who by then had gathered with his family in Charlotte as his brother’s storm was finally passing.

The auction closed the day Kevin Caruso died.

“He was a wonderful father,” said his son, David Caruso. “He said he was ready go home.”

The Caruso family ended up with the highest bid for the flag, at $10,900. “Kevin” the flag now graces the wall of the family business, Caruso Logistics in Cincinnati.

“He inspired us to stay strong, continue on, persevere, be courageous,” Mike Caruso said of his brother.

His sentiment extended to the flag that shares his brother’s name.

“Whatever your political beliefs may be or your religious beliefs, if you’re an American and you call yourself an American, you need to stand up – just as our flag stood for us,” he said.

Political winds always blow, and life is guaranteed to send storms, he said. So, just follow the example of Kevin the man and Kevin the flag.

“You keep having the right perspective and the right attitude. In the end, no matter what the outcome, you never gave up,” Mike Caruso said.

The North Carolina Museum of History has expressed interest in having the flag on loan for an exhibit, he said.

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