During the month of October, the American Legion is flying the American flag in honor and recognition of the VFW Last Man’s Club, World War I, World War II and Korea.
The club was organized in 1957. It was to meet every year on Aug. 14 in recognition of the World War II victory over Japan. It was to be held every year on that date until only one man was alive. When the club was organized, it received two bottles: one from the European side (French Embassy) and one from the Philippines, from the Philippine president in recognition of the nation’s sacrifices in World War II.
”Washington, July 26, 1957 The Embassy of France takes pleasure in. presenting this bottle of “Cognac” to the “Last Man’s Club” sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rice County Post 1562, of Faribault, Minnesota, in testimony of the sincere and lasting friendship uniting the gallant sons of the United States to their French Comrades-in-Arms., reads the Philippine Inscription In deference to your great Senator, the Honorable Hubert H. Humphrey, for whom the Philippines has the highest regard and as a tribute to my fellow veterans of Rice County Post 1562, Veterans of Foreign Wars, this bottle is inscribed with my best wishes, Carlos P. Romulo.
At the yearly meeting they started with the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer, a meal and if any members were deceased in the previous year there was a resolution written in the memory of them and sent to the next of kin.
At the meeting there was 20 seconds of silence, followed by taps and a toast in recognition of all deceased members. Then roll call was held, each name of the deceased was repeated three times. Minutes and financial report from the previous year was read and old and new business was discussed. At the last and final meeting, with one survivor it was decided to fly the flag for 30 days above the American Legion Post 43 in Faribault in honor and recognition of 116 Last Man’s members.
The VFW Last Man’s Club, World War I, World War II and Korean War was a unique organization. It was the history of the United States and of the world. The Last Man’s members were Faribault and Rice County residents. (One member was with Teddy Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill, Spanish/American War.)
World War I Last Man’s members fought trench warfare; the Marine Corps helped end World War I, fought in Aragonne Forest and Belleau Woods. That is where the German kaiser called the Marines “Devil Dogs” (the name stuck).
World War II Europe and Pacific theaters, we had one or more Last Man’s member in every action. An example: POWs wounded in action and loss of limbs. From start to finish Faribault and Rice County men were in every branch of service.
Korea: Faribault and Rice County Last Man’s members participated in parachute jump to cut off the enemy that had allied forces backed up almost to the waters edge of the Pusan Peninsula. We had members at Chusan Reservoir when Chinese troops crossed over to join the North Korean Forces.
One Korean War Last Man’s veteran was in every Cold War action that there was up until and including the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This is not to be about war stories. This is about Freedom for America and the parts of the world that needed help for freedom.
Annual meetings were not about war stories, it was paying tribute to each other and camaraderie, and enjoying one another from year to year. They met to recognize any comrades we lost during the past year.
That is what the little town of Faribault, Minnesota has contributed to world history through the members of our Last Man’s Club and a lot more residents of Faribault and Rice County that were not members of Last Man’s. Faribault residents served before and after and continue to serve to this day!
Members of VFW Last Man’s Club World War I, World War II and Korean War, listed in order of their deaths beginning with Aug. 14, 1958 through Aug. 10, 2019: Raymond Ziegler, Frank Gill, Roy Widman, George Anderson, Warben Savoie, James A. Roach, Leo O. Smuda, Maurice VanThomme, James H. Caswell, Mark L. Tollefson, Clayton L. Gray, Emil F. Pavek, Charles J. Mulliner, Ben A. Walderon, Wilfred Ulvenes, Francis Paquette, Joseph Hanlon, Forest Cole, John “Jack” Kenney, Roy Winjum, Gus Virak, John E. Coughlin, Tom Matakis, Adeloard Tousignant, Henry L. Bruley, Charles Carver, Otto Goertz, Dr. C.W. Rumpf, Stephen A. Kelley, Fred VanLear,, Lionel P. Perron, Andrew Lampert, E.T. Van Horn, Joseph A. Kubes, Peter Schaftluber. Everett Brendemuehl, Leo Bruley, Kurt Hinz, Donald Garry, Gordon Anderson, Joe Hruza, Roger Felix, Clarence Hoban and Russell Wilson.
Also, Robert B. Nelson, Elmer A. Kuehn, Frank H. Miller, Donald E. Johnson, Harley Reveland, William Thiffault, Alano Blackmer, Albert Frydenlund, Henry Schiks, Melvin Johnson, Louis LeMieux, Robert Meiller, Ruben Pommeranz, Willis Fritz, Ario D. Swanson, George Decoux, Roger Mullenmeister, Arnold Flom, Norman Borth, Harold Ebel, A.H. “Hank” Broin, Edwin J. Yarger, Robert L. Roberts, John Parker, Michael Spaetgens, Eldon J. Elthon, Roger A. Johnson, Emil B. Volz, William B. Ollhoff, Alton J. Deney, Rolland P. Hoban, Robert Haugh Sr., Raymond D. Gess, Edward Caron, Merlin Muenchow, Sam Upin, Merle Wright, Vernon Smith, Ray Flom,, Sylvester Fiebiger, Arthur Struthers. Ordean Reveland, John E. Roell, William D. Miller, Mike Koutavas, Emil Kajer, Leslie VanThomme, Raymond Delesha, Douglas Wolfe, Bernard A. Olson, Vincent J. Pluemer, Robert L. Cashin, Earl W. Fritz, William “Bill” Harkins, Paul Moen, Carlyle Beaupre, Al Hallanger, Myron Gutknecht, Don Aberle, Edward Beer, Melroy “Bud” Sunde, Richard Morgan, Robert “Bob” Cushman, Kenneth VanThomme, Warren Chamberlain, Francis Pettipiece, Cyril Jandro, Dan Skluzacek, James R. Sheady, Ralph Hunt and William Boosalis.
George R. La Roche is the last surviving member.