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VFW honors patriotic W.Va. eatery

July 19, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - If the Liberty Street Carryout doesn't convey a sense of Americana, nothing will.

Tiny American flags pinned to the wall, the smell of home-cooked food wafting through the air and a cross-section of regulars from lawyers to plain-clothes workers says it all.

If that doesn't convince you, stop by at noon.

That's when owner Dorothy Ford and her co-workers gather together to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The national anthem is broadcasted from WUSQ radio station in Winchester, Va., every day at noon, and Ford and the rest of the crew always join in for a sing-along.

As usual, the restaurant at 110 W. Liberty St. was bustling with lunchtime customers Wednesday when Ford and two co-workers momentarily stopped cooking to sing.

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Customers quietly listened to the trio, then gave them a round of applause afterward.

"I think it's great, to be honest with you," said David McAlister, who usually eats at Liberty Street Carryout every day. "I think too many people take this country for granted."

Ford said one of her co-workers started singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" about three months ago when the song came on the radio.

Then others joined in.

"It sounds better with three or four singing," Ford said. "One can cover up the other one's mistakes."

The daily ritual caught the attention of a local VFW organization, which decided an honor was in order. VFW Post 3522 in Charles Town and other officials with the organization periodically give out a Certificate of Patriotism award to individuals or groups who show patriotism, officials with the group said.

Officials from the VFW post made a surprise visit to the Liberty Street Carryout Tuesday, and besides presenting their certificate, they gave small flags, brochures and other items to patrons in the restaurant, said Zack Fleming, senior vice commander of the organization.

Singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" was something that struck the local veterans group as unique, said Ann Rock, Americanism chairperson for the local VFW post.

"Nowadays, it's a good thing to do," Rock said. "Any day, it's a good thing to do."

Ford talks about her patriotism, her customers and the community with conviction.

Singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a moving experience for Ford, and she said, "The more you sing that, the more it works on you."

Ford refers to her customers as "family," and said they are the reason she keeps the business going.

Two other workers in the restaurant are her daughters and a third is her grandson. The daughters are Christine Stotler and Sue Turner, and the grandson is Ronnie Turner.

Ford said her daughter, Lori Estebez, used to work with her, but died shortly after Christmas in 2000 due to breast cancer.

The 64-year-old Ford, who also goes by "Dottie" and "Mum," said she sometimes feels like closing the business, but her customers keep her going.

Ford periodically reaches out to the community, such as when she made 80 sausage and egg sandwiches and gave them to local firefighters who were working at a fire scene one day.

"We like helping out when we're needed," Ford said.

Charlie Ricks of Bristow, Va., was eating at a table with three others Wednesday when Ford and her workers sang.

Ricks said he and the others in his party traveled to Jefferson County and were staying at a bed and breakfast.

Ricks said he never had been to the Liberty Street Carryout, but he thought it looked like an interesting place.

He was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected performance.

"It's about time for a little patriotism," Ricks said.

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