Waterbury mourns the loss of ‘Ziggy the Flagman’

New Haven

It wouldn’t be unusual to see a special red, white and blue van throughout the streets of Waterbury. For years, “Ziggy the Flagman” would drive it around, showing off his love for our country.

He would often get out, and start waving the American flag at people driving by.

Ziggy was an icon here in Waterbury who spread the spirit of patriotism all over the Brass City, and he was loved for it.

“He’s a Waterbury icon and a person who was well respected,” said Waterbury state representative Geraldo Reyes, Jr. (D).

American troops often sent him cards and letters of appreciation. So did school children here when he would speak to them about the importance of the American flag.

We spent the day with some of his sons as they reflected on their dad and what he meant to this community.

Ziggy died on Christmas day from congestive heart failure at the age of 76. His son, Ali told News8 what it meant for Ziggy to wave the flag and show off his love for America.

“When I grab a hold of this pole it makes me feel alive and it did — we saw it,” Ali said. “All of us saw it, how it just made him feel better mentally, psychologically, emotionally — he was just better when he was out there.”

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary released a statement about Ziggy the Flagman:
“Today we mourn the loss of Zeqir “Ziggy the Flagman” Berisha. Ziggy will forever be remembered as an ardent patriot, and a beloved fixture of the Waterbury community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ziggy’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Ziggy was born in Kosovo and fled when it was under communist rule.

He came to the United States legally decades ago and his sons say he loved the flag so much for the opportunities America was able to provide him.

“Because where he came from, he didn’t have the freedom that we had,” said his son, Alex. “And he always told us not to take it for granted.

They didn’t. Because of his influence, four of Ziggy’s five sons ended up serving in the United States military. The other son worked for the federal government.

“It’s you’re here, you’re lucky to be here and you need to serve your country,” Ali said.

State Rep. Reyes says there’s preliminary talk of some sort of memorial to be built in Ziggy’s honor.

“There’s already been folks who have started the speculation and the thought process to actually get something underway, but it’s in the preliminaries and still in the discussion stage,” Rep. Reyes said.

Ziggy’s funeral is Monday morning and after the service there will be a procession through the city.

“One more chance for him to see the city he loved,” Ali said.

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