Dinner and program attended by hundreds paid tribute to those who started it, all the club did and how it managed to survive

by Jim Boyle

Editor

Elk River American Legion Commander Tom Kulkay read the names of the 30 charter members during the Sept. 7 celebration of the community’s hometown American Legion.

Most of the 250-plus people in the spruced up Legion hall had little idea who the people were, but the importance of recognizing them for starting something that has lasted 100 years and done so much for veterans, their families and the community was a welcome treat.

Bud Adams, the longest-serving Legion member, knew a few of them, though. He was one of the hundreds of people to be singled out for his involvement at the open house and program capped off with a program and a night of entertainment.

“I didn’t know I was going to get named,” Adams said, calling the celebration a special night and cause for plenty of reminiscing.

The event paid tribute to 30 charter members, the organization’s years of service to the community and how members, its leaders and the community banded together in recent years when the club was dangerously close to closing.

“The Elk River Legion is probably the oldest service organization in Elk River,” speaker Elk River Mayor John Dietz said. “I don’t have proof. There will always be veterans and the Legion will always be there — hopefully.”

Dietz said the club has had its ups and downs but it has managed to survive and prosper.

“It is something to be treasured by the citizens of this city,” Dietz said.

Legion Judge Advocate and proud past commander of Post 112 Mike Beyer emceed the event, and offered a hearty welcome to the 100-year celebration for the hometown Legion.

“It is an honor to be here tonight,” he said to cheers “We’re here to celebrate this monumental day for our community.”

As part of the ceremony, a POW/MIA Empty Chair was placed off to the side of the head table as a physical symbol of the thousands of American POW/MIAs still unaccounted for from all wars and conflicts involving the United States of America. It served as a reminder for all to spare no effort to secure the release of any American prisoners from captivity, the repatriation of the remains of those who died bravely in defense of liberty, and a full accounting of those missing.

Elk River Boy Scouts led the people who came to the program — and the overflow crowd that listened to a livestream of it in the restaurant and bar area — in the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

Commander Tom Kulkay was the first speaker. He is in his seventh year being the Post 112 commander, which is the longest consecutive term served in club’s 100-year existence. There have been 73 men and one woman to serve as commander in the last 100 years. Karen Luark was the club’s first and only female commander She served six terms,

In introducing Kulkay at the anniversary celebration, Beyer said Kulkay has held other officer chairs and has been part of youth baseball for many years locally.

Davis, Darrow and Meyer are namesakes

Kulkay spoke of the three names behind the charter:  Davis, Darrow, Meyer, and noted the original charter started with just one — Paul Cory Davis.

Davis was born  Jan. 18,1893, and was a graduate of Elk River High School. He went to college and left after one year to work at his father’s store (Davis Brothers Mercantile) as the grocery department manager. He was an active member of the group that started the concert band at the high school and was the manager of the band until he enlisted.

He enlisted in the Army on Dec. 6, 1917, joining the 20th Engineers Regiment. Company B, 5th Battalion as a corporal. He landed in France on Feb. 12, 1918. He died on May 6 due to pneumonia. He was the first local boy to die in WWI from Elk River.

Paul’s brother, Andrew, was also charter member of the post and a vote was taken to name the Post for Paul in 1919. Two names were eventually added after the original charter was started in 1945,   Darrow and Meyer.

Robert M. Darrow was born in Elk River on May 26, 1921, and was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Darrow.

He graduated from Elk River High School in 1939. After taking a course in aeronautical engineering in North Dakota, and receiving training, he earned his private pilot’s license and graduated in 1941. He enlisted as a flying cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps and received his pilot’s wings at Ellington Field, Texas, in July 1942.

Eventually promoted to first lieutenant, he participated in bombing missions in North Africa. He met his death at Salerno, Italy, on Sept. 3, 1943. He was decorated with the Air Medal, and awarded the Purple Hearth posthumously.

His father, Earl Darrow, was a WWI veteran, and commander of Post 112 (1920-1921).

George Meyer was born in Blackduck, Minnesota, in 1924 and moved to Elk River with his family when he was 2. He was a star athlete, strong and powerful, excelling in football and baseball, named all-conference and was captain of his Elk River High School football and baseball teams. He graduated in 1942 and went on to sign with the St. Paul Saints Class AA American Association. He attended Hamline University and played football the fall of 1942.  In 1943 he joined the Army and took basic training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. He was sent to Europe where he served with the 1st Battalion of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team. Sergeant Meyer was killed by mortar fire near Coulee, Belgium, on Jan. 15, 1945.  His remains were buried at the American Military Cemetery at Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, until 1947 when they were returned to the United States and laid to rest at St. John’s Lutheran Church Cemetery in Nowthen.

In 1999, a granite plaque was placed at the entrance of the Nowthen Ball Park in memory of George Meyer. In 2005, he was inducted as a charter member of the Elk River High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Charter members names read

Kulkay also read the names of the 30 original members. They are:  Steven Bernard, Wm. Mansur, Wm. Staples, Merle E. Smith,  Hilliard Hastings, Fred H. Greupner, George E. Lowe,  Earl Anderson,  Walter Middelstadt, Andrew Madson,  Archie C. Grindell, Laurence Auspos, Donald Henderson, Goodwin D. Robbins,. Kenneth F. Davis, Walter A. Gould, Eugene E. Chase, Phillip Blocker, Harold G Daskam, Parschos Dilles, W. M. Hamlett, Richard Latta, Benj. Waterfield, Gage Shannon, G. W. Malrupe, H. T. DeBooy, N. C. Nickerson, C. A. Gould, J. E. Brandt.

Never forgotten

The Legion will never forget them. It goes to great lengths to remember and pay tribute to the fallen.

The Elk River Legion Honor Guard was established in 1985 by American Legion Post 112 and VFW Post 5518 to support the Elk River community for various functions.

They:

-have led various parades through the years

-honor deceased veterans at churches and cemeteries all over the community

-perform flag-raisings at various events in the community, including the elementary schools.

-Support the Memorial Day service ceremonies at all area cemeteries

The world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization was established in 1919. For for a century, the American Legion Auxiliary has been serving, helping and meeting the needs of the nation’s veterans, military and their families.

The Post 112 charter for the auxiliary started in 1947. It has supported the Post during hard times, donated multiple checks  from fundraisers,  including bake sales, craft shows and hot fudge sundaes.

They have also sponsored some outstanding young ladies to Girls State, Beyer said, adding they host many youth events and take part in Poppy Days.

Sons of the American Legion was created in 1932 as an organization within the American Legion. They are made up of boys and men of all ages whose parents or grandparents served in the United States military and became eligible for membership in the American Legion, and SAL support the American Legion in promoting various local programs.

They also support the large events with kitchen staff and various other duties.

American Legion Riders chapters are well known for their charitable work, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local children’s hospitals, schools, veterans’ homes, severely wounded service members and scholarships. Since 2006, Riders nationwide have participated in the American Legion Legacy Run to annually raise money for the Legacy Scholarship Fund, established to provide scholarships to children of U.S. military personnel killed since Sept. 11, 2001. This run came through Elk River last month.  

The Elk River chapter of riders  started in 2017. It took over the Sunday breakfasts for fundraising. They also sell corn on the cob in the parking lot. They helped support the tractor pull and county fair fundraiser for Post 112

They have also ridden in various charity rides and the Elk River American Legion Honor Guard during Memorial Day, honoring deceased veterans in the community.

The Legion also sponsors a baseball team every year. Each year, nearly 100,000 athletes participate in American Legion baseball, the nation’s oldest amateur baseball program. Posts sponsor teams in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, giving young men wholesome, healthy activity and lessons in sportsmanship, loyalty, respect for rules and fair play.  

The Elk River American Legion also sponsors various boys and girls Scout troops.

Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, read a proclamation passed in the Minnesota House of Representatives that recognizes the Elk River Legion’s 100th anniversary.

Gold sponsors of the event were The Bank of Elk River,  Integrité Manufacturing, H&R Block, Guardian Angels, Elk River Floral, Elk River Lions Club, Rotz Septic and Excavating, Atlas Staffing, Greg and Cathy Artman, King Solutions, Elk River Meats and MATS.

Beyer also recognized  volunteers, including an army of them that helped make the anniversary celebration special.

“They did everything from cleaning, painting, negotiating, decorating, planning, letter writing, reviewing pictures, going through old scrap books, cooking...” Beyer said. “I think you get the hint, as I could go on for a long time.”

 DECA and National Honor Society students and the Boy Scouts volunteered at the dinner. Members of Flagrunners of Minnesota helped promote the event in the community.

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