Celebrating a Tonganoxie VFW milestone

Tonganoxie VFW Post 9271 members perform a gun salute during a Memorial Day Weekend ceremony Sunday, May 27, 2012, at Tonganoxie VFW Park. Enlarge photo

November 17, 2015

Tonganoxie VFW Post 9271 got its start in 1985 in a Mutual Savings basement meeting room.

There were 54 charter members there that night.

It was the start of a second stint for the VFW in the community, as the late John Cass Lenahan served as commander of the previously established post several years earlier.

Today, 30 years later, the local VFW has a post home, a park and is one of the stronger posts in the state.

To commemorate the milestone, the post will have a celebration from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the post home, 910 E. First St. A social hour will start at 2 p.m. and then a program will begin at 3 p.m. with an opening prayer, reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and recognition of special guests. The post also will give out certificates and plaques to honor a handful of people.

“We just want the public to know what we are doing and have done,” said Larry Meadows, a former Tonganoxie post commander and current trustee. “In the 30 years, we have accomplished a lot. There are many (posts) across the state that do not have a post home.”

The park was dedicated in 1996. The VFW’s property now covers about 18 acres, with about 8 acres currently utilized for the park, a nature trail and the post home.

In the early 2000s, workers completed the post home’s construction. It measured 2,400 square feet. An addition was completed a few years later on the south side of the building doubled its area to 4,800 square feet.

The park is dedicated to namesakes in three locations: The Reusch family near the entrance, the Novogradac family in the middle of the park and the Shoemaker family to the south near the park’s circular flower garden.

All provided land in some capacity to the VFW.

Meadows and his wife, Lois, a member of the women’s auxiliary, purchased a portion of the grounds from the Reusch family and then donated to the VFW. The Novogradac and Shoemaker families donated land to add to the park’s area. The park and post home currently cover 8 acres, Meadows said.

The organization also has a presence at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds with a food stand there.

Information about VFW Post 9271’s history will be on display during the event.

Meadows said several special guests have been invited, including Dan Smith, who was department commander when Post 9271 was launched. He also was grand marshal for this year’s Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade last week. Other notable invited guests are Charlie Shoemaker, Veterans Day parade committee member and a former VFW state commander, Mike Crow, a former Tonganoxie city attorney who was injured while serving in Vietnam, and Roger Donlon, the first medal of honor winner in Vietnam. Meadows said state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and state Rep. Connie O’Brien, R-Tonganoxie, are expected to attend.

Saturday’s event, Meadows hopes, will be a way for the community to celebrate the VFW and learn more about what it does for the community. It’s also a chance to boost membership.

The post was up to 200 members a few years ago and had a string of 20 consecutive years of an increase in membership from the previous year. The post now has about 165 members. Meadows said numbers have declined due to death and some members discontinuing membership.

The post sponsors the national Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy essay contests for Tonganoxie middle school and high school students, respectively. It also rents out medical equipment and covers annual dues for active duty members of the military.

Post 9271’s current post commander is Dale Woodyard. Senior vice commander is Bob Cooper and junior vice commander is Pete Novosel. Quartermaster is Richard Bronaugh and trustees are Floyd Olsen, Bob Puhr and Meadows.

The post has made great strides since its inception in the 1980s, according to Meadows.

“When Harold Denholm became our post commander, our post had zero dollars and no property,” Meadows said. “That was in 1994. And now, we own the park, we own the post home, food booth at the fairgrounds and we have money in the bank. “All the time we’ve kept our programs up.”

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