David Cavalier – Sergeant, United States Army

Tuesday, May 23, 2000:

Ida Forbes remembers how David Cavalier used to pick flowers from his yard and keep a bunch on the front step of his house. When people walked past his Teaneck home, he would hand them one. “He was a good man,” Forbes said, quietly.

Cavalier, known in Teaneck as the “flag man,” was buried Monday at Arlington National Cemetery. A World War II army veteran, it had been one of his last wishes, friends say.

The friendship between Cavalier and Forbes – his caretaker of three years – was remarkable because he had held a long-term bias against African-Americans, said Michael Kates, Cavalier’s attorney and friend. Forbes is African-American. Cavalier was the son of Italian immigrants. “He was a sick person,” Forbes explained of their friendship. “You have to be cordial, to be tender to them. I was tender to him, and he always said thanks.” Cavalier was sometimes called the “flag man,” because he used to push a shopping cart with American flags attached to them up and down Cedar Lane.

“He was proud of his American heritage,” said Teaneck Mayor Paul Ostrow. Cavalier was also manic-depressive and needed medication to control his moods, Kates said. After a domestic dispute with his sister in 1992, Cavalier moved in and out of the county hospital and nursing homes. Then, three years ago, he was able to move back home with the condition that he had a caretaker.

Enter Ida Forbes. Cavalier, whose three brothers were also World War II veterans, refused to be buried in the family plot in Jersey City, Forbes said. About 250,000 veterans are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Between 25 and 30 burials take place there each work day.

Cavalier served in the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945 as a flight trainer in South Carolina, said Kates.

His friends remembered how Forbes would have to hide the matches in Cavalier’s house because he would burn his bills. He rarely slept, and left the house late at night to wander the streets, said Joan Fricchione, Cavalier’s niece. “He thought that if Edison only needed a couple of hours of sleep a night, he too, needed little sleep,” Fricchione said.

After his discharge from the army in 1945, Cavalier worked as a watchmaker in Teterboro, said Kates. Cavalier’s problems started when his company moved to Connecticut, and he was forced to retire at age 59, his friends say.

Seven friends and relatives made the trip to Arlington National Cemetery for Cavalier’s burial Monday. He lived with his mother and until her death at 100 in 1980. Cavalier never married. On a gray and breezy day, his friends and family sat under a white awning, watching as members of an Army Honor Guard folded an American flag into three neat corners. A bugler, standing amidst a sea of white tombstones, played “Taps.”

Afterwards, Fricchione was thoughtful.She said: “During the ceremony, I couldn’t help but think that he would have been so proud of this.”

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