of Hoover-Bickel VFW Post 2689


Celebrates First 50 Years Service To Huntington

 Fifty years ago a trio of veterans consisting of Emery P. Smith, L. Wade Strauss and Lawrence Allen met in the Erie railroad yard office and decided to organize a
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Huntington. The trio wrote to officials at the National VFW Headquarters, Kansas City, for a charter application. Having completed the preliminaries, the trio, assisted by Earl F. Moore, set out to recruit members. The Huntington Post was granted a National Veterans of Foreign Wars Charter September 18, 1932. It was officially named the Edward Hoover Post 2689. Of the 62 charter members, there are two members who are with us today ... Fred Winter and R. R. Lewis, both residents of Huntington.
An issue of the Huntington Herald Press, dated Monday, September 19, 1932, described the installation of officers and beginning of the VFW in Huntington, in these words: " ... L.W. Strauss was elected first Commander of the local Post of Veterans of Foreign Wars, installed Sunday afternoon (September 18) with special services at Memorial Park. Ex-servicemen and Gold Star Mothers were guests at the installation. Members of the Jim Eby Post at Ft. Wayne had charge of the installation rituals. "
"Earl F. Moore, named temporary chairman in charge of organization several weeks ago, was named Senior Vice Commander; Lawrence Allen, Junior Vice Commander; Ned Brown, Quartermaster and DeForrest McLin, Adjutant. Appointive Officers of the new Post will be filled during the next meeting (September 29) in the Court House Assembly Room."
" Fred Myles of Kansas City, State Adjutant, and Major H. A. Green, Chief of Staff of Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, were speakers during the installation. Other speakers were:
Captain Frank S. Clark, Indianapolis, Department Commander and Claude L. Benefield, Department Junior Vice Commander. ... " (Notes: Fred Myles was the 7th Department Commander, 1928-29. Commanders-in-Chief at the time of the Post installation were:
Darold D. DeCoe of California, 1931-32, and Robert E. Coontz, Washington, D.C., 1932-33 .... L.W. Strauss was known as Wade and lived at 935 Poplar St., in Huntington, until his death.)
An issue of the Huntington Herald Press, dated September 30, 1932, wrote in its lead editorial, titled "Foreign Veterans Organize: "Huntington County now has a Post of Veterans of Foreign Wars, installation ceremonies having been held here Sunday. The Post has a membership of 50 men and this is expected to double soon.
In this age of over-organization there may be those who would suggest that Huntington and Huntington County already have too many organizations. However the initial membership in the new Post and the enthusiasm which its members have for the new organization, show that it was wanted here, and that this is the first test. The man who served his country in foreign lands has something in common with every other man who has rendered like service no matter whether the foreign country was France, Germany, Mexico, Cuba, or some other place where he was stationed. With a common interest it is natural that these men desire to be united more closely and an organization is the result. That the new Post may have a successful existence, that it may foster, develop and encourage patriotism; the proper love of country, and the proper respect for the United States and its traditions is the hope of Huntington County."
John R. Kissinger, Spanish-American War Veteran, and Congressional Medal of Honor winner for medical experimentation with "Yellow Jack" at Camp Columbus, Cuba, was a charter member and was presented with the fIrst Life Membership Card of Post 2689. Steeped in the historical Events of a great era, is the interesting story behind the naming of the Huntington VFW Post. Its chartered name ... Edward Hoover... was chosen in honor and memory of Mr. Hoover, the fIrst Huntington County man to be killed on foreign soil during WorId War I.
In 1947, the name Bickel was appended to the charter, offIcially designating Post 2689 as the Hoover-Bickel Post. Sgt. Richard (Dick) Bickel was the fIrst casualty of Huntington County during WWII. He was killed in North Africa, while serving with the tank corps. He is interred at the National Cemetery at Tunis, Tunisia. J. Richard Bickel was the son of Jack and Vida Bickel of Huntington. (Mr. Bickel is now deceased, and the mother Vida (Bickel) Ridenour is now living in Venice, Florida.) A brother, Dale E. Bickel, also a veteran of WWII, now lives in Merrillville, Indiana, and is a continuous member of Post 2689.
The name, Hoover-Bickel, VFW Post serves as a living record in the memory of the deeds and valor of these "Brothers of the BattlefIeld." Members of Post 2689 have served overseas in every unit of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. From the infantry to the quartermasters they have circled the globe. Since 1978, female veterans are also eligible for membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"Gem" of the Fifth District, Post 2689, has had the honors of being the largest Post for many years in that district. Until recently, membership standings have earned the Huntington Post a place among Indiana's "Big 10." It was the 3rd Post in the state to reach its 1,000 membership goal, and maintained that position for many years as the third largest Post in Indiana.
Current membership for the 1982-83 year nears 800. Of this amount 2 percent are WWI veterans; 80 percent are WWII veterans; 18 percent are Korea and Vietnam veterans. Ernest Bailey, Jr., a Vietnam veteran served as Post Commander for 1981-82. He is followed by another Korean and Vietnam veteran, Fred Tobin, current Post Commander. During the formative years, Post meetings took place in the G.A.R. Rooms of the County Courthouse. With the end of WWII, the VFW membership took an upsurge in community life. In December of 1945 the Post had a membership roster of 58. In March, 1946 the Post moved to its club rooms at 16 1/2 East Market St. Max Patten was hired as club manager and served in that capacity for a number of years. His efficient business manner was a great asset to the Post, State and National organization. He was assisted by Robert Dolan, Wallace Kaley and Stanley Rubish. It was during this period that Post 2689 staged its first open invitation of new members. On October 26, 1947 more than 500 members received their obligations to the VFW. The rituals took place at Huntington's Community Gymnasium, and was cited as the largest such event in Indiana VFW history at that time.
With the influx of eligible veterans of WWII, facilities were soon inadequate. On March 19, 1948, Hoover-Bickel VFW Post purchased the former Huntington Trust and Savings building at the 24 East Market St. Dedication of the Post Home took place in the fall of 1948. Hundreds of guests and members witnessed the event and participated in the WOWO Radio Station broadcast saluting the VFW. Two years later, in 1950, the Post had its mortgageeburning celebration at the Lafontaine Country Club. In 1980 the Post purchased a building and property on West Park Drive (U.S.24) formerly occupied by Sears and Roebuck Co. Remodeling of the one story building for a new Post Home continues according to the availability of working funds. All facilities will be on one street-level floor, with ample private parking available for members. Members hope to make their new Post Home a reality in the near future.
Since 1948, the building at 24 East Market has served as Post Home to its VFW brothers and sisters of the Ladies Auxiliary. Hospitality and courtesy long have been a by-word here and its cordiality have earned recognition from District, State and National levels. A varied program of activity is offered the members of Post 2689, among these are included social, atWetics, youth projects, welfare program and drill team competition. The Post Drill Team and Firing Squad were the Indiana State "Blue Ribbon" (1st Place) winners for 5 consecutive years .. 1949-53. They represented the State of Indiana at 2 National Conventions and won 3rd Place at the Milwaukee Convention and 2nd place at the Chicago National Encampment in 1950. Members of the drill team and firing squad participated in numerous burial rites and parades throughout Indiana communities and in surrounding States. They spent many hours in practice, and still found time to be hard and dedicated workers for the VFW in Huntington County. These men also provided much favorable publicity and integrity to Post 2689. (These many years later, you can talk to VFW members from California to New York, and they still remember the famous drill team of Post 2689.) The Post has also sponsored bowling, basketball and other athletic activities as a service to its membership. It sponsored the 6th Annual Department VFW Bowling Tournament in 1954, drawing entries from throughout the State for the 3 weekend event.
The Huntington VFW Post was cited in 1967-68 as Indiana's Finest Post, earning the Lane Trophy and Plaque presented by the VFW Past Commanders' Club. In addition to trophys and awards for drill team and firing squad competition, Post 2689 also received its first State Community Service Trophy in 1950, and has won State and National Awards continuously for its programs.
The 4th of July program earned the VFW Post a Bronze Medal National Award in 1980. Although Post 2689 has not had any representative as a State VFW Commander, it has provided a member, the Rev. John A. Tunler as State Chaplain, 1949-50. Another member, Patrick R. Moran, has been editor of the Indiana Combat Veteran since 1962. The Hoover-Bickel Post is indeed one bearing many mementoes of activity. Trophies, plaques and citations, give evidence of membership participation and hard work in their service to its community and the welfare of all veterans, their widows and children. Welfare, youth work, hospital projects, Americanism with service to the community of Huntington go hand-in-hand with the interest of VFW members, as exemplified through its slogan: "We honor the Dead, By Helping the Living."
The key to continued success of the Hoover-Bickel Veterans of War Post 2689 is Patriotism, Cooperation, and Friendship to all.
Post 2689 has been honored by having 3 Post Commanders who served as District Commanders of the "Lightning Fifth", Richard Holzinger, Charles (Jack) Kannapel, and Gary Riggars.
Next 10 Years
With 2689 continues success, as a tribute to all veterans.
They, like others, have had a few "slack" years. Having realized we had "outgrown" the facilities at 24 East Market St., membership decided a new Post Home should be sought. Bill Machmer and Bill Wingate were appointed to investigate possibilities. Looking at many sites, the committee presented the building at 220 West Park Drive. Gerald Yeoman and Lawrence Scheiber being the owners offered it to the Post at reasonable cost and a contract with reasonable interest. Bill Machmer was Post Commander at the time of purchase of the building. In 1979, when the building was purchased, it was rented to the Sears Store. The Post continued to rent to Sears for approximately 1 year, after which remodeling was started with many volunteers. A contractor was hired when the remodeling was more than those volunteering could handle. At about this time interest rates were at 20 and 22% and funds were very low. The Ladies Auxiliary helped immensely with the new building, with first contribution of $5000.00 to assist with a yearly payment. Food sales, nunmage sales, raffies, etc. were done by the Ladies, with approximately, an additional $11,000.00 being contributed at various times for equipment and miscellaneous costs.
Finally in March 1986 the move into the now present Post Home at 220 West Park Drive was complete. Gary Riggars was Commander at the time of the move. The dining room, kitchen and game room were completed following the move. Gene Bartrom and Francis Okuly were hired to complete the remodeling. Thinking the facilities were adequate it was time to enjoy. The Dining room was opened in 1988-89. The public may use it as they may enter through the rear door, directly across from the dining room.
The mortgage on the building was paid off due to members participation in various fund raising events. Now, we needed additional parking space. The property just west of the building was available. This was purchased and parking space tripled. At this writing the Post is still in debt for the ground. Bob Bartrom, Jr. was Commander when this ground was purchased.
HISTORY OF VFW #2689 1992-2003
Since last writing of History of VFW #2689 many changes and persons have taken place.
December 1991 held Open Memorial for ending WW2. Additional District Commanders from Post #2689 were: Robert R. Bartrom, John Stockman
2001 - 2002 2003 - 2004
Robert R.(Bobby) Bartrom was Commander of Post #2689 when the ground was purchased for the new parking lot in 1991 - 1992.
Membership has decreased continuously due to deaths of many members. As of 2002 Post Membership stood at 667 with 445 Life Members and Ladies Auxiliary at 413 with 125 Life Members.
Post #2689 & Ladies Auxiliary have been enjoying the Post Home at 220 W. Park Drive. We did have the dining room operating five (5) days per week and Friday nights for dinners. With many of the "Fast Food" restaurants moving into the community it finally became a detriment and very costly. So daily lunches were cancelled. Although you could continue with hot dogs, sausage and sandwiches at the Canteen.
Post #2689 continued to have an "Outstanding Funeral Detail" consisting of eight (8) men. As local Legions did not continue their funeral details, Veterans of Foreign Wars continued to hold Military Rites for all Veterans upon request at no charge to the veterans family.
Post and Auxiliary members visited patients at the Veterans Hospital in Marion, IN. and also the Fort Wayne Veterans Medical Center, holding various parties there for the patients. Many members continued to volunteer to assist in local nursing homes and hospitals weekly. We also tried to assist any veteran that may be in need of transportation assistance of any kind.
A benefit has been held yearly for Cancer Services of Huntington County for the past six (6) years. This was always a joint program with the Post and the Ladies Auxiliary. Spaghetti suppers were held with tickets sold through out the community. All net proceeds were donated to the Cancer Services. During the past six (6) years we have raised over $6000.00 for this very out-standing service. All monies stay in Huntington County and is used for medical & transportation to cancer affiliated.
In 1999 we started having a Fish Fry each 2nd and 4th Friday of every month. All volunteer help was from Post and Auxiliary members. Those have been most successful. Monies are used to assist Funeral Details, hospital work and other community programs.
Now we are feeling really great. All can enjoy our Post Home and assist with programs and projects.
Post #2689 did sponsor the community 4th of July Program and Fireworks for (50) Fifty years. Due to lack of volunteer help, the membership getting older and funding harder to find, we had no choice but to stop sponsoring it. During the 50 years of our leadership, there were no serious accidents from these programs. So we voted to give it up. The Elks Organization took it over for the year 2002. At this writing we do not know if they plan to continue further or not. Due to so much building in the area of the school it is hard to find a place that can accommodate the fireworks and the huge amount of people that it draws from surrounding cities and even other states.
Now it is January 2003. Disaster struck VFW Post #2689 after closing the Canteen on Saturday, January 12,2003. A police car passed the Post Home at approximately 1:30 AM and saw smoke coming from the building. The entire inside of the building was burned out or smoke damaged so badly it was unusable. So all Post #2689 members were left without a "Home." Upon investigation it was determined that the cause was accidental. We were fortunate that the structural beams were not damaged beyond repair. We also feel very fortuunate that no lives were lost in this tragedy. As of May 8th the General Casualty Insurance Company is completely reconstructing the inside of the building. This company has been working with us efficiently and quickly, progress is coming along very well.
So at this point, the building has new ceilings, new and painted walls, all new electrical wiring, and will need to have all furnishings purchased to replace all the damaged furniture. We will be so happy to be back in our "new" Post Home.
We want to "Thank" American Legion Post #85 for all the hospitality shown to our members, both Post and Ladies Auxiliary. They allowed us to hold our meetings there and made us all welcome. It was very much appreciated by all of VFW Post #2689.
At the 2002 National Convention the VFW passed a resolution to allow a Men's Auxiliary. Many stated that Mothers, Wives, Daughters and Sisters could belong so Fathers, Brothers and Sons should too or it would be discrimination. The resolution was passed leaving it to each State at this time. At Fall Conference, State of Indiana voted to allow a Men's Auxiliary. Members were notified and Post #2689 members voted to have a Men's Auxiliary. A meeting was held on Saturday, January 12th to elect officers. As a prior meeting was held to explain the Men's Auxiliary would abide by State Rules and Local Host Canteen Rules. The Men's Auxiliary has not yet been instituted as of this writing. They have read the papers and requirements to apply for Charter and complete institution. Soon all papers will be completed and sent in to Department Quarter Master Dave Havely. The Men's Auxiliary have approximately 53 members for 2003. Most of the young men were "raised" in VFW by accompanying their parents when they were young. They are now happy they can be a part of a great organization, the same as sisters, mothers, & etc.
In Honor To Marjorie Machmer For Her Efforts And Dedication In The Composition Of These VFW Post 2689 History Records. Thank You Marjorie. 
July 1, 2003
VFW Post #2689 Post Commander Jerry Walling
Ladies Auxiliary President Lois Hall
Men's Auxiliary President James Kneller

Written by Marjorie Machmer
Published by Ruth M. Bartrom May 2003