War vet and local painter dies at 81

John Flack
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Kevin Rader/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Friends and family are paying their last respects to an Indianapolis veteran of two wars, and one of the most decorated officers in IMPD's history. John Flack died Monday at the age of 81.

A few years ago, Eyewitness News met John Flack and his brush with history while serving his country, his city and his passion. This is his story.

It may seem unusual but outside of Washington, DC, Indianapolis is home to more war memorials than any other American city. They stand in memory of those who gave their lives and for those who remember.

If these memories are not preserved, then who will remember and retell the stories about World War Two?

John Flack told us about being surrounded by 100,000 Chinese troops in Korea.

"And the colonel says good. Don't let them get away. And he meant it," said Flack.

Flack remembered lying about his age when he was sixteen to serve during WWII. He also told us about answering his country's call during Korea. He's a member of the frozen Chosin, a fierce battle memorialized in the World War Museum. His United States Marine Corp uniform is still on display.

"The fact that people like Mr. Flack are so talented and dedicated to put on the uniform of our country and then document it later is something that I think is priceless," said BrigGen J. Stewart Goodwin.

After serving eight years and two wars, Flack returned to Indianapolis to serve 35 years at IPD where he was the most decorated officer in history. But it's what he did in his off time and retirement that gives us a full illustration of his life.

"Myself, I didn't ever want to forget," he said.

Flack used a paintbrush to bring his memories of war back to life. He painted memories as simple as a cup of cold coffee, coming off the Front or more intimate remembrances of life and death. Flack's son told us that many of the pictures and sketches his father did were from actual situations.

Flack started having memory problems a few years before his death, however. His son Robert said the family began noticing John Flack's trouble remembering dates, times and places.

"We were all noticing a decline in speech and memory a little bit and they said John, you are in the early stage of Alzheimer's," said Robert. "That is how we found out about it."

"I can feel it yet I'm doing good," said John.

"It's starting to onset a little more and I think the paintings help him to remember," said his son.

"The thing I worried about was not me. I'm worried about my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. That is what I live for," said Flack.

Flack spent his final years painting so that his children and others might remember his experiences serving his country.

His work is on display at the War Memorial in Indianapolis, at least two other Marine Corps museums and a few US battleships as well. The way he saw it, it was the least he could do for those holding the high ground.

"For those who didn't make it back but they are still waiting for us, holding the high land, the high ground," said Flack, who got a Purple Heart in the First Marine Division Okinawa.

"You always wonder why your buddy got killed and I didn't," Flack said.

Visitation for John Flack is being held until 9:00 pm Thursday at the Flanner and Buchanan Oaklawn Memorial Gardens Chapel. Funeral services will be held there Friday morning at 10:00 am.

Some of his paintings are still on display at the Indiana World War Memorial.