Legion post to celebrate centennial Sunday afternoon

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Vince Mangan, left, and Jim Cavanaugh hold the American Legion post's charter and a picture of Everett H. Hale, for whom the local post was named.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE The American Legion's 1919-1926 minutes book shows the date that the post was chartered.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Everett H. Hale's medals are part of the Spring Valley Historical Society’s displays.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

“Dear Mother,

They’re saving me for a hanging, I guess.  The submarine never caused me even a web foot. Am sending a newspaper telling some about it.  Am perfectly well and all right, but you can start knitting again, for all my stuff is at the bottom of the ocean.  And Mother, take your hat off to the English – they’re wonderful.  Don’t worry.  – Everett.”

So reads the last postcard sent home by Everett Hubert Hale, namesake of the Spring Valley American Legion Post 68, as he wrote about his rescue by an English boat after an incident at sea.  The next communication Mrs. Hale received was a telegram on Dec. 13, 1919, one that left her awaiting further news until he was declared killed in action. 

It read:“Mr. S.H. Hale, We deeply regret to inform you that Lt. Everett Hubert Hale, infantry, is officially reported as missing in action since Oct. 14, 1918.” 

Her son had gone to war but would never return, ending his biography far before he’d planned.  His time in the service during World War I was brief, according to that biography, which shared that he was born on April 10, 1891, to Samuel and Helen Hale.  He graduated from Spring Valley’s Ward School – located on Hudson Avenue – in 1908 and was a notable pupil and sporting contender. 

He enlisted in the military in the spring of 1917 and took his training in Waco, Texas, and Fort Dix, New Jersey, as part of Company A, 107th Supply Train.  After completing his training, he sailed for Europe from Hoboken, New Jersey, on Jan. 24, 1918, on the Tuscania, but it didn’t fare well, as a German U-boat torpedoed the liner on Feb. 5, 1918, causing its fall to the bottom of the ocean.  Hale was one survivor, fortunate to not have been among the 210 who did not stay afloat. 

He attended officer’s training in France, graduating to second lieutenant, Company B, 60th Infantry, 5th Division. 

It was on the western front in the Argonne Forest that he was declared missing in action, and in July, his family received a letter detailing his demise from a shell explosion during battle on Oct. 14, 1919.  The lieutenant was originally buried at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne, France, but was re-interred in the United States in 1921, finding final rest on home soil.

Hale’s brother, Quincy H. Hale, sent a letter from Hale, Skemp, Hanson, Schnurrer & Skemp law firm in La Crosse on Dec. 1, 1966, informing the Everett H. Hale Spring Valley American Legion Post 68, which was chartered on Aug. 11, 1919, that Everett had been included in a book entitled “Wisconsin’s Gold Star List.” 

Gentlemen, Under separate cover, I am sending to you ‘Wisconsin’s Gold Star List.’  On page 27, it lists my brother, Everett Hubert Hale, who enlisted from Chippewa County, Wisconsin, and after whom your post was named.  I thought you might like to have this in your library.  Please, no publicity.  Yours truly, Quincy H. Hale, La Crosse, Wisconsin.” 

The American Legion post has records that prove that it was chartered in Everett Hale’s name, including the journal with the word “minutes” written across its hard gray cover.  The minutes read, “August 1919.  Meeting held to organize.  Called to order by William (illegible)…be it known that a charter has been applied for…Mr. William Nolan, member of temporary state executive committee.  Temporary officers elected were Commander Alfred Conklin, Vice Commander Clarence Stauslier and C.F. Guere, secretary and treasurer.”

Current Legion members Vince Mangan and Jim Cavanaugh recently discovered the post’s charter. Mangan noted that according to what he found a few weekends ago, American Legion Post 68 became a chartered Legion on Aug. 11, 1919. 

“We originally thought that it was chartered July 18, 1919,” he said. “I started going through stuff in my basement, and in some stuff that Paul Ness gave, me, I found the charter.  The original meeting book is 100 years old now.” 

Cavanaugh added that the Fillmore County Council is the oldest Legion council in the United States. 

“Normally, those who were wounded or killed in battle got a Purple Heart, but they had just started the program in 1917, so Everett Hale didn’t get one…it was either bureaucracy or his family kept it, because the post doesn’t have it.  But when the post became the Everett H. Hale post, we don’t know,” Cavanaugh said.

The pair observed, however, that the post’s membership splurged on a portrait of Hale once the post was named in his honor – they spent $42.50, a notable sum in 1919 – and that by the end of World War II, the post’s membership had grown to encompass nearly 200 veterans. 

“The highest number of members we’ve ever had is 183,” Mangan stated. “I think it was a bunch of World War I guys left, some from World War II who had come home in 1947, and probably even some from the Spanish-American War still alive then.”

Presently, Harlan Marchant is the post’s eldest member of approximately 75, while member Nathan Pike’s sons, Khristian and Kyle, are its youngest.  The current commander is Nick Schmidt. 

The membership keeps busy throughout the year, even as its numbers dwindle, Mangan and Cavanaugh noted. They collect toys for children at Christmas; donate to the nursing home, library, Senior Dining program, the historical society, food shelf and Fisher House veterans’ home; distribute scholarships to high school graduates; and hold fundraiser breakfasts and lunches to support the causes it upholds in the name of the Legion. 

The two understand that there are fewer young people enlisting in the service, meaning that their time as a post may be limited, but they also feel that what they do makes a difference in the community and are proud to be part of the post’s centennial year and its celebration. 

Cavanaugh reflected on the paradox of the Legion’s very existence and its commitment to community service, saying, “It would be nice if we could all die out and for there not to have to be a Legion or VFW – that there would be no wars – but that’s not going to happen.  I wish there weren’t.”              

Until then, it’s time to celebrate what’s happening right now, as the Everett H. Hale American Legion Post 68 will mark its centennial anniversary this Sunday, July 14, at the Spring Valley Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall from 1 to 3 p.m., with cake and ice cream, coffee and lemonade being served.  The public is welcome to attend.  For more information, just stop in and have some cake.