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In Memory of Peter Orenski (1940-2016)

Last modified: 2016-08-19 by pete loeser
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Peter Orenski displays
his favorite flag

A youngish Peter
IVC 13 - Murray River 1989

Occupy Protest
New York City 2011


Dr. Peter J. Orenski 1940-2016

A Tribute to a Mate

     On Saturday, 13 August 2016, Flags Australia, and the entire international vexillological community lost a friendly, generous Mate (good friend), who died peacefully after a short illness in hospital in his home town of New Milford, Connecticut, USA.
     Peter was born on the 21 April 1940, in Czernowitz, then in northern Romania. Due to the effects of the communist regime, he and his parents had to flee, initially to the safety of Austria, before being accepted as refugees to settle in the United States in August 1960. Three years later, in 1963, Peter graduated from Columbia University, in New York which was followed in 1967 with a Ph.D in Chemistry. For almost twenty years Peter worked as chemist at Union Carbide, until the mid-1980s.
     We first met Peter at the Welcoming Reception of ICV 13 in Melbourne on 24 September 1989. This was his first flag meeting, and he had already been very generous to the Flag Society of Australia, by donating complimentary crossed ICV 13/Australia Flags lapel pins, for each of the Congress registrants. This kind gesture was later repeated at a number of other ICVs and NAVA meetings, with the most recent occasion being again for the FSA - Flags Australia, at ICV 26 in Sydney, in Aug.-Sept. 2015. Peter was also generous with sharing his intellectual understanding of the practical elements of flag design and making the wider subject of vexillology even more interesting to both fellow vexillologists and the general public.
     Regarding his vexillological activities, Peter was active with significant published works. These include:

  1. A Flag for New Milford - The practical Guide to Creating a Successful Civic Flag ("The Flag Bulletin" No.168 - Jan.-Apr. 1996)
  2. Art Editor for Flags of the Native Peoples of the United States (NAVA's "Raven" Vols. 3-4 1996-97)
  3. Quo Vadimus - An Essay on the State and Future of Vexillology (Self-Published 2001 & 2003)
  4. Native American Flags - Jointly with Donald T Healy (University of Oklahoma Press 2003)
  5. Table Top Flags - Australia's Capital City Flags (Flags Australia's "Crux Australis" Vol. 25 - 2012, No.4-104).

     Via his own company, TME Co Inc - Ambassador Lapel Flags, established in 1986, Peter successfully produced flags and flag-related items at very economical prices, but high quality, at both small and large production runs, making both full-size and desk-size national or sub-national / municipal flags and custom made flags, and high quality replica historical flags ranging across the history of all regions of the world. He also encouraged and supported various flag projects and publications produced by other vexillologists, and as we can both vouch for, was always happy to accept small quantity flag production jobs for special family events and/or celebrations, whether it be full-size and/or desk size flags.
     If this was not enough, Peter had an infectious happy demeanour, always ready with a smile and a joke, or sending numerous "joke" e-mails to all on his mailing list creating smiles far and wide around the world.
     Both personally and on behalf of Flags Australia, we thank you, Peter-Mate, for your friendship, advice and generosity over the last 25+ years. Our condolences to his close friends and the local community of New Milford, Connecticut, who became his adopted family.
     We will miss you Mate, now flying high above us all.
Ralph Kelly (President & ICV 26 Chairman, Flags Australia.)
Ralph Bartlett (Co-Founder & Secretary, Flags Australia.)

Messages from/for his FOTW Family and Friends:

     Yesterday, I received some very bad news. Peter Orenski died yesterday in New Milford, Connecticut. His contribution to FOTW was the circulation of the weekly updates to a good many vexillologists (including myself, although I always used the original copied from yourself), who would otherwise not have received them. Indeed, it was only when he failed to do so over a 2-3 week period, that I made enquiries. The answer was that he was in hospital in New Milford. Moreover I was told that there could be no operation to help him recover, but that only palliative treatment could be given, until he died.
     Although he was not an editor, he did provide a great deal of information to a great many vexillologists, in particular with regard to the flags of Native Americans. As founder and owner of "TME/Ambassador Lapel Flags", he distributed a great many lapel pins, usually of joint flags. He was also unsparing of his time and effort in responding to enquiries. Many of these responses helped me to make Flagmaster the magazine it became, when I was still editor.
     He was also a founder member of "NAVA Group 6", an accommodation address for flag-enquiries and including six of the top vexillologists in the world.
Michael Faul, York, United Kingdom

     Sad news indeed! We developed much contact after we met around FOTW in mid-90s and eventually had a chance to meet in person in York 2001 ICV. Afterwards one of the highlights of each subsequent ICV was the opportunity to meet Peter again. He  spread joy around him as much as he spread a passion for flags. I took it as a great compliment from him, even if it was given jocularly, as he often did, when he used to call bunch of us "young fotwers" princes of vexillology.
     Nevertheless Peter was a serious vexillologist. His essay Quo Vadimus is certainly a key paper in theoretical vexillology (or sociology of vexillology, if you wish) and I had great pleasure in analysing it often even if not always agreeing with his conclusions. I have often recounted his picturesque critique of "classical" vexillology that he thought was not worth of being called a science - that he would shout in a childish voice "Mommy, mommy, look at this nice flower [flag] that I have found". He urged us to move on and discover a bit more "flag herbarium", to research the meaning and role of flags in society.
     Vexillology lost a great man and I have lost a friend today.
Željko Heimer, Pazinska, Zagreb, Croatia

           I have known Peter for many years, a great friend indeed, I am stunned and saddened. His tireless, endless energy for vexillology, his innovative articles on vexillology, his research on rare flags and making them in small (by himself) and large flags for the collecting community will leave a large hole in my life, but a large hole in the world of flags. His work on native American tribal flags, to actually make the flags for the tribes, and to help them create flags when they did not have them is unsurpassed. And he was meticulous in detail, determined to be accurate.
     His two great works published A Flag for New Milford as Flag Bulletin #168, and his Quo Vadis were ground breaking, and written in his 3rd or 4th language, his native Romanian did not show. He worked closely with Whitney Smith.
     He could be harsh and dismissive, but meet his standards and he would be lavish in his praise, and tireless in his help. A doctor of chemistry (I think), but really he should be awarded a Doctorate of vexillology.
     I have been concerned for the last few weeks as I lost contact. I feared the worst, but was still not prepared to have lost him. May his spirit continue to inspire.
Lee Herold, Rochester, Minnesota USA

     Sad news about a good friend of FOTW. Peter was well known to many of us through NAVA and many ICVs. Although Peter was never an active member of FOTW, he certainly was a friend of FOTW. He was an active promoter in the early days, when there was a great deal of scepticism about the viability of web-based vexillology, and for many years he has been a link between FOTW and the wider community, by forwarding updates from us to a lengthy list of contacts. He will be missed.
Rob Raeside, Director, Flags of the World, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada

     Peter was truly one of a kind. His enthusiastic and irreverent sense of humor brightened many an exceedingly serious and boring meeting, providing a welcome relief for any flag enthusiast wallowing in an overly academic atmosphere. I remember in Sidney having to attend the formal final awards dinner wearing tennis shoes with my slacks, tie, and jacket, and Peter running up to Marianne and I exclaiming "Oh, I need a picture of this!" He proudly placed his tennis shoe clad foot next to mine and snapped a picture of our feet. It never occurred to him that my reason was medical, only that I was a kindred spirit. That was Peter, pure energy and joy. He was the kind of friend you could always count on, and his enthusiasm for flags was a pleasure to be around. You either loved him or he drove you crazy, but he was always interesting. I especially enjoyed watching the reaction to him by that "all too serious and important" set, a target that he delighted toying with. As previously said, he was truly one of a kind, and I'm going to miss him.
     Another bright light of vexillology has gone out.
Pete Loeser, Morgan Hill, California, USA

      My Brother Peter

     Peter Joseph Orenski, born 21 April 1940 in Czernowitz, Province of Bukovina, then part of Romania (today the city of Chernivtsi in Western Ukraine), died due to complications of prostrate cancer on 13 August 2016 in New Milford, Connecticut, USA.
     Just 6 days after he was born, his family fled the advancing Russian troops to Bucharest, Romania. In 1960 the family emigrated to the United States. His father, Stefan Walter Orenstein (who changed his name to Orenski in 1945) was a biological scientist who was born in Vienna and his mother Herta Bendetz Orenstein was a musicologist born in Bukovina.
     Peter and his father both became United States Citizens in 1965 after his mother's death. Peter was educated as a chemical engineer, graduating from Columbia University in 1963 and attaining the degree of PhD in chemistry in 1967. From 1967 to 1987 he worked for Union Carbide in Tarrytown, NY, and afterwards he eventually settled in New Milford, Connecticut. Upon retirement he devoted himself to all things vexillological.
     I first met Peter in 1996 due to North American Vexillological Association issues. When I was elected President of NAVA in 1998, he was on the Board with me serving as Treasurer. Two years later he stepped down from that position and served as the chair of NAVA's membership committee, in which capacity he was responsible (along with the late Harry Oswald) for the sharp increase of membership from well south of 400 to more than 500 members.
     Peter was a hard critic, being quick to point out where he thought we were failing and full of ideas on how to move ahead. But always he was positive and thoughtful in every way possible. Full of mirth, he became an important friend and advisor and ultimately I came to look on him as my brother. He could always make me laugh, especially with his stories of having escaped the Three Bad C's, Communism, Catholicism, and Cancer (although that last one caught up with him in the end).
     The author of a number of important works such as "A Flag for New Milford: The Practical Guide to Creating a Successful Civic Flag" and Quo Vadimus (an essay on the State and Future of Vexillology) and co-author of "Native American Flags". He also gave presentations to International Congresses of Vexillology, such as "VEXILOGORRHEA: A culturally determined amerikanische Flaggensünde" at ICV-22 in Berlin. Orenski has left us a wealth of information and his superb design work will live on at the TME Company.
     Peter was known as "Flag Dancer" by Native Americans, "The Flag Man of New Milford" by the citizens of that municipality and region and as "The Flag Dude" by nearly everyone else in the world. He traveled extensively, was fluent in a number of languages, and had close friends on every continent except Antarctica (and I'm not certain he did not have friends there).
     I don't know what else I can add to this evidence of a life well lived except that I loved him very much and will miss him sorely. I am comforted in knowing I am not alone.
David B. Martucci, Washington, Maine, USA

     On behalf of the NAVA Executive Board, we were sadden to hear of the death of Peter J. Orenski, a longtime NAVA member. Dr. Orenski, who resided in New Milford, Connecticut, served as a member of the NAVA Board and contributed to vexillological research, writing and publishing.
     Dr. Orenski not only attended many NAVA annual meetings but was a participant in International Flag Congresses and had many friends not only in the Association but around the world.
     He was a successful flag designer, manufacturer and dealer who produced a stunning variety of flags not usually available in the flag market.
     The NAVA Board joins with all members of the Association in sending condolences to his family and friends.
John M. Hartvigsen, President, North American Vexillological Association

      Taken from my house today...flying in Peter Orenski's honor. [Chris is rather well-known in DC area for the flags he displays.]
Chris Bedwell, Washington D.C., USA

     The vexillological world took a hit with the loss of Peter. He will be missed.
Clay Moss, Plain, Mississippi, USA

     I was recently asked to explain the reasons for the explosion of Native American flags over the past 40 years. My answer: Sovereignty Laws, Casinos, and Peter Orenski.
     These three things drove tribal flag adoption: The federal native sovereignty laws that treated tribes as nations - nations need flags; the gaming laws that allowed tribes to open casinos - casinos have flag poles in front; and Peter Orenski's work with Don Healy publishing books and posters about tribal flags, and his work with tribes to develop flags - this spurred scores of tribes to adopt flags.
     After the 1997 publication of Don Healy's "Flags of the Native Peoples of the United States", a special double issue of Raven which I edited with Peter creating the artwork, he made this generous offer to any tribe: "I will help you design and adopt a flag, I will make the first 12 for you for free, and I will sell you more flags at my cost to raise money for your tribe." Unbelieving at first, tribes began to accept Peter's offer (and his design counsel) and adopt flags. One such success was in 2003 when the Chinook Tribe of S.W. Washington created a stunning flag - a stylized Chinook salmon in black and red on white in the style of Pacific Northwest Coast native art - with Peter's encouraging help.
     In the lead-up to the 2003-06 Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, the 56 tribes encountered by the Corps of Discovery planned their participation in commemorative events, which often included flags. Encounter tribes without flags rushed to adopt them, often with Peter's guidance and support. And during the Bicentennial (at my suggestion as director of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial in Oregon), Peter generously loaned a complete set of tribal flags to the National Park Service's traveling museum/education exhibit, Corps of Discovery II, so that it could fly the host tribe flag wherever it set up across the entire Lewis & Clark Trail. Peter later gave a full set to the National Museum of the American Indian.
     Peter continued to support tribal flags by maintaining the largest and most active inventory for sale to the public, through TME Co. and its website (which continues after his death), listing well over 400 tribal flags! But he did it all not as a businessman, but as a passionate supporter of tribes and flags.
Ted Kaye, Portland, Oregon, USA

     Always a patriot, Peter designed this Golden Jubilee American flag to honor the Fourth of July and the 50th Anniversary of the 50-star flag. Here he waves it proudly. It is still one of my favorite pictures of Peter and also my favorite design for an anniversary flag.
Pete Loeser, Morgan Hill, California, USA

     He was a good friend, but most of all to me, he was a mentor. Before I had the honor to share a meal with him in Yokohama, Japan, for ICV 23, I worked hand in hand with him on various flag images and to help expand our collective knowledge of flags and their designs. Even when it's not about flags, he always gave that parental advice that has carried out my personal life when it came to relationships, family and education. I owe everything to him, for without his steady hand and guidance, I wouldn't be where I would be today.
Zachary Harden, Russellville, Arkansas, USA

in memoriam ce 2016  Image recoloured by Mark Sensen