Susan Epling’s son Brandon was 4 when the pair first
began planting flags throughout Highland Beach to mark the
Fourth of July. It’s been a patriotic tradition for 20 years now. Photo by Tim Stepien
Highland Beach residents who awaken on the Fourth of July to a sea of red, white and blue flags, have Susan K. Epling to thank. She and her son, Brandon, began the patriotic tribute 20 years ago, and haven’t missed a single year since.
Brandon, 23, was just 4 when they began pitching American flags in front of residents’ homes.
“I wanted to teach him patriotism and giving back to his community,” said Epling, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate on Ocean Boulevard in Boca Raton.
“Brandon and I have put flags in yards, on the docks and the entire 3½-mile stretch of A1A in Highland Beach,” she said. “We planted about 2,500 flags one year, but on the average about 1,500 are put out every year. This is a ritual we both look forward to every year. The residents of Highland Beach call us and send us thank-you notes. They love to see old glory waving proudly!” (If you’d like to thank the Eplings, email Sepling1@aol.com)
The mother-son team’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by town officials. There was an offer for the town to help pay for the flags, but Epling said she and Brandon, a student at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale studying video/film production, want to do it on their own, although Brandon’s friends sometimes help place the flags.
Residents are welcome to keep the flags, but some are retrieved and recycled, if they’re in good enough condition. The town collects those that remain and stores them.
“We’re very particular about them,” Epling said. “I’ll iron them if they need it and if they’re tattered they will be replaced” with hundreds of new flags she buys each year.
Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Epling, a Baby Boomer who enjoys arts and crafts, said she has always been very patriotic.
“My two brothers were both in the Army,” she said. “My youngest brother served in the Vietnam War and older brother in secret intelligence. I can remember when they came home on leave. It was such a happy occasion, but when they had to return, my heart would go out to all of the men and women who were keeping us safe. I have always felt a strong appreciation for those that serve our country.”
One year, she and her son, with the help of some of his friends, put the flags on A1A, too, but this year, like most years, they concentrated on the entrance to the town from Delray Beach and Boca Raton, the Town Hall, and all the side streets.
“This year is the 10th anniversary of all those who lost their lives in 9/11,” Epling said. “We honor them, as well.”
— Mary Thurwachter
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school?
A. I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. I went to Akron University for my real estate and also to Kent State University. Went to Hammel Business College for court stenography.
Q. What are highlights of your professional life?
A. I have met some very interesting people who have become life-long friends through my real estate business. I am a very competitive and compassionate person. I love the challenge of the accomplishments.
Q. Is the Fourth of July your favorite holiday?
A. The Fourth of July is a special day and time to reflect on what a great country we live in, our freedom and what our Constitution stands for. The decorating of the red, white and blue, the American flags waving and fireworks lift my spirits and make me feel proud to be an American.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in Highland Beach?
A. I actually had a client looking to move to Highland Beach. In showing him property, I thought, this is where I want to live — in this peaceful charming town. That was 33 years ago!
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Highland Beach?
A. Highland Beach offers Florida lifestyle at its best. You have the beach, boating, biking, jogging, sunrises, sunsets and you can drive to the busy city life within half an hour north or south. The town only has one piece of commercial property — the Holiday Inn — where I like to meet with friends for a little wine, song and entertainment!
Q. What got you interested in real estate?
A. In growing up, my family owned a Century 21 real estate firm in Ohio, which was very successful. Because I was around it all the time, I was quite intrigued with the interaction with people and the sales aspect. I also worked for a real estate investment trust that gave me great knowledge of the real estate industry.
Q. Have you had famous clients over the years?
A. Yes, several NFL players, Leona Helmsley and Robert De Niro. Baseball legend Carl Yastrzemski used to live on my street.
Q. If someone made a movie of your life, who would you like to play you and why?
A. Julia Roberts, because she is adventurous, daring and gutsy! I have truly had circumstances in my life that are novel/movie material. It would be No. 1 on the charts!
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
A. Inspirational music to make me keep going — Chariots of Fire — love the movie and the story.
Relaxing — I have a collection of antique music boxes, love to wind them up and listen to them, string instruments, piano — Kenny G a favorite.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. A risk so small is worth a reward so great!