Cape May’s Solemn Tradition

At sundown, Cape May salutes our veterans.

For 40 years, families, friends and beachgoers have participated in the daily Sunset Beach flag-lowering ceremony.
For 40 years, families, friends and beachgoers have participated in the daily Sunset Beach flag-lowering ceremony.
Photo courtesy of the Hume family.

Many Garden State families have annual Shore traditions. Few, if any, have touched as many lives as the Hume family of Cape May Point.

Every summer night since 1975, the family has honored a departed U.S. veteran in a flag ceremony at their seaside shops on Sunset Beach, at the southwestern tip of Cape May County. Casket flags are flown daily by arrangement with veterans’ families from Memorial Day through September 30, then lowered in a 20-minute ritual that begins 30 minutes before sunset. Information about the honoree is read, recordings of “God Bless America” and the national anthem are played, and taps are sounded—sometimes live—as the veteran’s relatives lower the flag.

The late Marvin Hume, a World War II Navy veteran, began the tradition to honor friends lost at Pearl Harbor; in time, he expanded the ritual to salute other deceased military. More than 6,000 veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq have been honored.

The free ceremony attracts up to 500 people on some summer nights (free parking is plentiful). Many come to enjoy the small beach or the adjacent 18-hole mini-golf course and the Hume family’s three pet-friendly stores—a gift shop, garden  shop and souvenir clothing shop. Others beachcomb for Cape May diamonds—quartz stones polished clear by the ocean—or gaze offshore at the remains of the World War I concrete ship USS Atlantus. Some grab a bite at the grill, which remains open until dusk. But as sunset approaches, attention turns to the flag ceremony.

Marvin Hume, who died in April, turned the flag ceremony over to his children. Soon, their children will continue the tradition.

“We are all very patriotic in our family and believe in honoring those who served our country,” Marvin’s daughter says. “As long as Sunset Beach is held by our family, the flag ceremony will continue.”

To reserve a flag ceremony, visit sunsetbeachnj.com/flag-ceremony. For more information, call 800-757-6468.

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