March 2, 2001
Town to honor Italian-Americans and Leonardo da Vinci's hometown

Peter Orenski of New Milford used the Vinci coat of arms as a basis for creating this flag for the Italian town.

By Lynda Wellman


New Milford is taking the first steps to establish a special relationship with Vinci, Italy, the hometown of Leonardo da Vinci.

At the urging of Peter Orenski, better known locally as the Flagman, Mayor Art Peitler on Monday proclaimed that April 15, the birthday of the famed artist, architect, engineer and mathematician Leonardo da Vinci, be a day to honor Italian-American residents and the town of Vinci.

"The town of New Milford takes great pride and is thankful for the many artistic and cultural contributions made by our citizens whose family roots lie in Italy," the proclamation begins.

This is the coat of arms for the town of Vinci, Italy.

The town would fly Vinci’s flag that day as "an expression of friendship to the citizens of Vinci and in gratitude for the contributions of Italian-Americans to our community."

Mayor Peitler plans to send symbolic presents — an official New Milford flag, as well as a table flag with a marble base quarried in the Boardman District of town and a jewelry-quality New Milford lapel pin — to Giancarlo Faenzi, mayor of Vinci.

He and Dr. Orenski hope the town of Vinci will fly the New Milford flag on July 4 to celebrate America’s birthday and also the birth of the New Milford flag, July 4, 1995.

"All of civilization owes a debt to Leonardo," said Councilman Ray O’Brien, who supported the idea of honoring Italian-Americans on April 15.

He quipped, however, that it seemed terrible to associate the event with income tax day.

"I would love for the mayor to declare us a sister city with Vinci," Dr. Orenski said recently. "It would be fun for us and a good tourist draw for them."

Mayor Peitler said last week that the idea of a sister city relationship is "an interesting idea worth following up on. That kind of connection is always exciting. A lot of things can spin off that."

In 1997 the mayor proposed becoming a sister city with Kenmare, one of Ireland’s planned towns, but that idea didn’t seem to catch on. New Milford, however, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a reception and ceremony naming the Irishman and Irishwoman of the year.

The idea for a relationship with Vinci was spawned when Dr. Orenski was traveling in the Tuscany region of Italy in June. He serves as treasurer on the executive board of NAVA, the North American Vexillological Association, a flag study society, and was speaking at Italian Flag Society meetings.

While he was having lunch across the street after visiting the Leonardo Museum in the Castle Guidi, he noticed there was no flag flying over Vinci’s town hall.

Since flags are his passion as well as his business, he headed across the street to find the mayor and discuss the need for a flag in a town with "thousands of years of history."

Dr. Orenski met with the assistant mayor and left with a copy of the town’s coat of arms, determined to design a flag for Vinci.

Flag design is not a new endeavor for the man who organized the competition to design the familiar green and white New Milford flag in 1995.

"Every time I see the flag flying from the library and town hall it makes my day," he said. "I get all happified."

Vinci at a glance

äźVinci, Italy, is the town where Leonardo da Vinci was raised, although he was born in a farmhouse in Anchiano, 3 kilometers from Vinci.

äźThe borough of Vinci has about 14,000 residents and consists of 54 square kilometers.

äźIt is located in verdant countryside in the heart of Tuscany, near Florence.

äźThe Romanesque Santa Croce Parish Church is near the 11th century Conti [Count] Guidi Castle, which houses the Leonardo Museum.

äźThe Leonardo Museum has several floors of working models of machines inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s designs.

äźVinci is known for its extra virgin olive oil and wines, including Chianti Putto Montalbano and Chianti D.O.C.G.


— Lynda Wellman

Dr. Orenski explained the New Milford flag gives him a feeling of belonging that he’s never had over a lifetime of living in several countries. Born in Romania, he has been a U.S. citizen since 1965 and a New Milford resident since 1987.

"Through flags I connected," he said, remarking that despite a successful career as a chemist, he’s proudest of the New Milford flag.

Flags have been his business since he retired from Union Carbide in 1989. He wrote a book based on the process leading up to choosing New Milford’s flag: "A Flag for New Milford, The Practical Guide for Creating a Successful Civic Flag."

The book has spawned what Dr. Orenski jokingly calls the "son" and "grandson" of New Milford, a regional flag for Hampton Roads and a flag for Southampton County, both in Virginia.

Using the Vinci coat of arms as a base, Dr. Orenski has designed a flag true to the shield on the coat of arms. His proposed flag has the da Vinci family alternating gold and red stripes at the base and the castle tower above on a blue background.

Heraldry rules, however, usually forbid putting one color on top of another since it thwarts easy identification when colors melt together in the distance.

Roberto Breschi, a well-known Italian vexillologist, has researched the coat of arms and discovered the castle was originally silver or white on blue instead of red on blue as in the coat of arms. Following Dr. Breschi’s suggestion, Dr. Orenski is presenting an alternate flag choice with a white on blue castle for the town.

The proposed flags are designed in the "Divine Ratio" used by the Greeks in the Parthenon in Athens and by Leonardo da Vinci.

"It just happens to be very pleasing proportions..., visual harmonics," said Dr. Orenski, remarking the typical American flag is 3 feet by 5 feet, "as close as any manufacturer will get" to the perfect ratio.

"The perfect ratio would have meant a lot to Leonardo," Dr. Orenski said.

In designing a flag, Dr. Orenski said he aims for simplicity, visual impact with color and proportion and to use symbols that mean something to the residents.

Dr. Orenski’s company, TME Co. Inc., headquartered in New Milford, owns the rights to Ambassador Lapel Flags and Ambassador Badges. TME sells jewelry-quality, 24K gold-plated flag pins, as well as watches, other accessories and apparel.