Elk River American Legion Auxiliary has been the ‘backbone’ of century-old Legion

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

For the last century, the Elk River American Legion Auxiliary has been working to make a difference in the community and in the lives of veterans.

The auxiliary celebrated its 100th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 9, with lunch and a program at the local Legion.

Mike Beyer, past commander of the Legion, said he’s known most of the women in the auxiliary from many years of working together. He noted that their work doesn’t go unnoticed.

“We’re very appreciative of your efforts, and how you ladies continue to be the backbone of our post,” he told them at the ceremony.

Cathy Artman, auxiliary president, said the anniversary is an amazing milestone — 100 years of service to veterans, community and country.

“This auxiliary has been an enormous asset to this post and this community,” Artman said. Through several wars, “our veterans needed us, and you answered the call. And our job is not done.”

The auxiliary supports a variety of veteran and community programs.

Also speaking at Saturday’s event were 6th District President Bev Grose, Sherburne County Veterans Service Officer Mike Tschudi and a representative of 6th District Junior President Chloe Dragon.

Grose also acknowledged an Elk River American Legion Auxiliary junior member, Grace Doebler, who is 12. Her sister, Lily Doebler, and their cousin, Emma Doebler, were also at the event. All three are granddaughters of auxiliary member Ramona Doebler, who said she signed up all three as junior auxiliary members when they were infants.

Past auxiliary presidents who were in attendance were also recognized. They were Garnet Novotny, Priscilla Ondracek, Lydia Mevissen, Roberta Takle and Sharon Hackenmueller, who served as acting president during the pandemic in 2020-2021.

Founded in 1921

The Elk River American Legion Auxiliary was founded in 1921, two years after the Elk River American Legion post started. The names of 37 women were listed on the auxiliary’s charter.

Today, the membership stands at 123, said Michele Smith, first vice president of the auxiliary.

Some of the women in attendance at the 100th anniversary have been in the organization for decades. Others are relative newcomers.

Artman, the president, joined in 2017. She described the members as witty, knowledgeable and involved.

Most of them, she said, serve not only in the auxiliary but in organizations such as their churches and other places.

“They are the gems of the community,” Artman said.

Sharon Hackenmueller joined the auxiliary in 2011. Her dad was a WWII veteran and Hackenmueller said he instilled in her family the importance of giving back, a lesson she took to heart.

Sharon Mendenhall got involved in the auxiliary four years ago when her husband, Thomas, joined the Legion.

Mendenhall is an artist and her watercolor of a poppy was featured on the 100th anniversary program and other materials.

She said there are a lot of positive, new ideas in the auxiliary and she’s excited to be part of the group.

Roberta Takle has been in the auxiliary for 49 years. She joined the group in 1972 — the year her husband, Jerry, served as commander of the Elk River American Legion.

She said being part of the auxiliary is a way to serve the community and veterans.

Now with a century of service behind them, Takle said it’s encouraging to see new people involved and a promising future ahead.

“It’s exciting to see how we’re moving forward,” she said.

Through the years

Elk River American Legion Auxiliary President Cathy Artman shared a few highlights from the organization’s 100 years of history during the Oct. 9 celebration.

• Many of the auxiliary’s early meetings were held in the home of Marie Flaherty.

• In 1933, the auxiliary’s card party was postponed until the measles were not so prevalent.

•In 1938, the Legion and Auxiliary Dance was held at St. Andrew’s Hall.

• In 1939, auxiliary members helped with 2,000 immunizations.

• Sept. 1, 1939, World War II began and the auxiliary pledged to help the war effort however it could. The war ended in 1945. In 1946, the Elk River American Legion Post name was changed to Davis-Darrow-Meyer, after three local men who died in WWI (Davis) and WWII (Darrow and Meyer).

• In 1963, work began on the Legion’s new building in Elk River. That same year, the auxiliary made 132 nut cups for the Anoka State Hospital.

• There was an open house to show off the new Legion building on April 25, 1964.

• In 1971, the auxiliary celebrated its 50th anniversary. Also that year, a new addition to the post — bar, lounge and club rooms — was dedicated.

• In 1983, the auxiliary hosted the Sixth District Convention.

• By 1987, fish frys and bake sales were in full swing.

• In 1990, Joyce Norell was elected president of the 6th District.

• In 1995, Wendy Nogle was elected 6th District president. Senior dances and blood drives were held, and the auxiliary helped with the fifth annual Community Christmas Dinner — an annual event still going strong.

Sources: Elk River Legion Auxiliary, Elk River Star News archives

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