October 6, 2011

Community to Honor V.F.W. Post #4958 During Saturday Benefit

Charter members Bud Burns and Charles Harris along with one of the oldest members of Post #4958, Clark Mustoe, display the charter papers for the Wallace W. Gillespie Memorial Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. A benefit is being held for the post on Saturday night.

As World War II drew to a close midway through 1945, servicemen that were returning to Scotland County called upon their common bond with past soldiers, sailors and marines to form a home in which to gather and share their memories. Thus the Memphis chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was born.

On November 20th, 1945 91 members signed the initial charter for the Wallace W. Gillespie Memorial Post #4958 of the V.F.W. The veterans chose to honor a non service member when naming Post #4958.

Wallace Gillespie was the owner of the Memphis Reveille newspaper. His coverage of the war efforts earned him the respect of the servicemen and their families, as he kept them in the minds and hearts of their hometown readers by publishing a picture and brief article about every single soldier, sailor, marine or pilot that traced his or her roots to Scotland County, He also helped boost morale overseas, by sending free newspapers to all of those servicemen he could reach.

"Mr. Gillespie was honored for all he did for us," said Bud Burns, one of the original charter members of Post #4958. "He sent the paper to all the servicemen he could get addresses for and he always had news and pictures in the paper about all of the veterans."

Charles Harris, like his father, was a charter member of the local V.F.W. Father served in World War I, while son was a naval pilot during the second world war.

"There were a lot of World War I vets like dad, among the original charter members," Harris said. "Then there were several of us, fresh back from Europe and Japan that swelled the ranks."

Those ranks have declined significantly over the past 60 years.

"There are darn few of us guys left," said Burns referring to the post's World War II veterans. That figure includes Clark W. Mustoe, who along with Charles Bruner of Downing are the oldest living members of the local V.F.W.

There are just three remaining charter members of the organization, Burns, Harris, and William H. Adams of La Plata. The post currently has a roll call of 132 members who are veterans of WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the ongoing struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This history will be honored during a public benefit for Post #4958 on Saturday, October 8th. A prime rib dinner at 6 p.m. will be followed by a auction fundraiser for the post. Items like a Brinkman gas grill, Martin compound bow, CZ-USA 12 gauge over and under shotgun, two Henry .22 Golden Boy rifles and much more will be sold to the highest bidder with all the proceeds to go to V.F.W.

The V.F.W. Ladies Auxiliary in Memphis was charted on June 12, 1954. Pictured are original charter members (L to R) Betty Fetters, Martha Burns, Helen Clough Martin and Wilma June Kapfer.

The post currently survives on annual dues paid by veteran and social members. The hall is also rented out to the public for special events.

Over the years the V.F.W. has served as a community gathering sight for such events as political rallies, auctions, wedding receptions, government meetings and much more. During its hay days in the 50s and 60s the V.F.W hosted a number of big name musical acts.

"We drew in lots of popular bands and singers," said Mustoe. "Back when we had the train come through Memphis, a lot of these folks would stop here and play on their way through to Kansas City."

The social side of the post was overshadowed by the community service provided by the membership. For years the VFW provided the only ambulance service for Scotland County. The annual March of Dimes fundraiser has yearly generated significant financial contributions for charities. Members annually deliver hams and turkeys to the Scotland County Care Center and Nutrition Center for the holidays.

The post hosted a junior rifle club for years and continues to support little league baseball. Members provide the color guard for numerous parades and events each year. Recently area schools have benefited from visits from VFW members to help celebrate Veterans Day and to learn the history and meaning of the U.S. Flag as well as its proper care.

Saturday will be an opportunity for the community to give back to Post #4958.

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