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February 16, 1984

PIX #1 - Post 421 VFW Band that won its first national title in Cleveland in 1946 when Harry Stoneberger was commander. With the passing of time it has been impossible to identify all of the band members even with the aid of sev- eral members themselves. The following are the names that could be matched with faces. Front row from left, unknown, unknown, unknown, V. Dolch, H. Spooner, unknown, H. Dennis, C. Richards, J. Hayfield, J. Guernsey, L. Greg- ory, P. White. Second row, G. Gray, J. Gray, E. Berry, W. Cooper, unknown, unknown, unknown, E. Wertz, N. Muenich. Third row, unknown, unknown, unknown, C. Peeler, P. Richards, J. Carter, L. Wertz, Carl Good. Last row, D. Downs, director, J. Slusser, N. Keibel, A. Burger, unknown, E. Kimes, G. Weiker, un- known, H. Sallers.

PIX #2 - VFW Post 421 officers for 1983-1984 photographed in front of their headquarters on West Tiffin Street. Standing from left, W.O. Parson, adju- tant; William Risner, judge advocate; Nobel Bell, chaplain; George Peeler, commander; Harry Stoneberger, oldest living past commander; Kenneth Wells, trustee; Vinton Cooley, service officer. Kneeling from left, Dale Hartley, senior vice commander; Charles Thaxton, house committee; Lester Sheridan, trustee; Rodney Braman, junior vice commander; Daryl Saldausky, trustee. Officers absent when photo was taken include James Stevens, quartermaster; Henry Brooks, surgeon; Forrest Yates, officer of the day; and Bobby Brown, house committee.

Fifty years ago on Feb. 21, 1934, the charter for the Lt. Col. W.O. W.O. Bul- ger Post 421, Veterans of Foreign Wars was delivered and presented to a group of 32 Fostorians.

These included: Harvey Blosser, Edward Baker, William E. Cook, Lowell W. Cas- tret, Robert Dory, Thomas Duffey, L.L. Douglas, Mason Feisel, Harold E. Fruth, James V. Ford, Jess Haines, Ernie Haines, Fred M. Hopkins.

Jerome A. Huth, Edward E. Hartline, Charles Kessler, Oscar Lahrman, Thomas A. Mansfield, Harley E. Mansfield, Clyde Miller, Lawrence Molter, R.O. Nichols, Charles Snook, H.J. Sommers, Walter Sheets, W.J. Shields, Carl Smith, Charles B. Wise, J.W. Walsh, Robert Wagner, Benjamin Youngston, and Charles Smith.

Lt. Col. W.O. Bugler was honored by having the local organization named after him because of his seniority and rank he attained as a Spanish-American War veteran. None of those original charter members are living.

I was invited to write this article and meet with a committee from the VFW to gather information. As we looked at the charter, many names brought back mem- ories.

William E. Cook was connected with Cook Carriage Co. for many years. Thomas Duffey, well-known in town, once sprinkled the unpaved streets in the business district to keep the dust down, riding atop a large barrel-like wagon. Harold E. Fruth was the doctor, father of Lester, the insurance man. James Ford was the attorney and judge. Fred M. Hopkins was publisher of The Daily Review. Ed Hartline was a local grocer. Charles Kessler was on the police force. Robert Wagner was a post office employee. J.W. Walsh was police chief. Carl Smith was a local business man involved in many pursuits. W.J. Shields was a carpenter and H.J. Sommers was well-known in town.

Capt. R.O. Nichols was with Ohio Power Co. Jerome Huth was a fireman. As other charter members' names were read off, their faces flashed back in my memory, even if I didn't recall what each one did.

One fact we can and should all remember about each one on the list: they vol- unteered to serve their country, to protect it from enemies and to preserve freedom.

Each charter member of the local post, and those who became affiliated with it through the years, have been granted membership only if they met certain qualifications. The primary qualification is service outside the continental boundaries of the U.S., and in a battle zone or theater of operation stands at 290. Siince June 1983 the VFW and the American Legion have jointly con- ducted 13 military funerals...two of those in 1984.

Throughout the 50 years that Post 421 has been in existence, 35 of its members have served as commanders. George W. Peeler, former mayor of Fostoria, has served as commander since 1982.

Other past commanders are: H.J. Sommers (the first), Harley Mansfield, L.W. Castret, W.E. Cook, Harry Huston, E.A. Kurtz, Ben F. Agnes, Wilbur French, Marcus W. Eickle, Carl Steinhour, Roscoe Lewis, Leland Gorrill and Lurelle Loomis. All of those are deceased.

Commanders still living are: Harry Stoneberger, Phil Brubaker, Gabriel Dominic, Max Fleming, Verne Hanson, Earl Graham Jr., Delbert Horner, Henry Brooks, Dale Bennett, Donald A. Stahl, Vinton Cooley, Clarence Hammer, James Stevens, Charles Thaxton, Kenneth Wells, William Parson, Larry Bergstedt, Lester Sheridan and William Wilson. Some of those listed have served more than one term which accounts for less than 50 names.

Harry Stoneberger is the oldest living commander, while Nobel Bell, no young- ster, has been chaplain of the post for 43 continuous years.

As if volunteering to serve their country wasn't enough contribution to war- rant existence of the VFW, I asked Commander Peeler what the organization does.

"We are interested in our community; participating in the local drives for funds; we donate the American flags for our schools and other public build- ings; we are involved in the support of widows and orphans of members; we con- tribute to the Children's Home in Eaton Rapids, Mich., and also Xenia; also contribute to Soldiers and Sailors Home in name some of our activities."


Then I remembered how Post 421 sponsored the local VFW Band for many years... and how they won 10 national championships, bringing honor to the musicians themselves, the post and to Fostorial.

The story of the VFW band goes back to the time when it was originally the City Band directed by Ansel Dennis, longtime musician and local post office employee. He continued as the VFW Band director until arthritis in his feet and legs forced his resignation.

Richard "Dick" Downs then became the director and tirelessly worked to carry the band through 10 national championships, the first being in Cleveland in 1947. Other cities where the band competed were: St. Louis, Miami, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas.

For the Dallas convention, Post 421 had a new color guard entered for the com- petitition, and they walked away with top honors too. The color guard con- sisted of Jim Isbell, Phil Brubaker, Don Clinker, Don Etchen and Robert Weaks.

The VFW Band also played and broadcasted for a series of 13 concerts over ra- dio WFIN. At one of those concerts, Jack Wainwright was present and directed the last number of the program. Many of those musicians had played under Jack years earlier in the high school band.

After winning their 10th national championship, the band declined to enter a- gain. But they continued to represent the post for another year or two. E- ventually the band disbanded, but some of the original members are still per- forming as part of the Federation of Musicians Band which plays summer con- certs at Meadowlark Park and other engagements in this area.


When Post 421 was granted its charter in 1934 they established headquarters across the street from the present location in a two-story building which was a landmark for early Fostoria. The land upon which the building was erected was originally part of the C.W. Foster estate.

Ultimately, when the city purchased the land and buildings in that area for erection of the Municipal Building, the VFW moved into the present building, purchasing it from Dick Edison in 1971. That building was once Fostoria's post office. It was also a bowling alley first operated by Harry Aldrich and later by three others, including Paul Widner, Bill Williamson and John Smolik.

On Saturday VFW Post 421 will celebrate its 50th birthday. Commander Peeler and his committee--Dale Hartley, senior vice commander; Rodney Braman, junior vice commander; Charles Thaxton; Bobby Brown; and Bill Parsons--have made plans for a gala celebration. From 5 to 7 p.m. a buffet lunch will be served to members and guests. Following that, Past State Commander John Fyre will deliver the citation address honoring the post for its 50 years. A dance will take place at the headquarters on West Tiffin Street.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: While preparing today's article, Don Etchen, a member of the VFW color guard unit in 1956, volunteered a scrapbook he had assembled about the Dallas trip. Also Ernie Duffield, a member of the VFW Band, donated a pamphlet about other band activities. There's so much to tell that another article will be presented next week.)

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