Kenmare VFW Auxiliary disbanding
Posted 5/25/11 (Wed)
Helping others one final time . . . Lori Bauer, activities director
at the Kenmare Community Hospital (center front), accepts a donation
of $500 toward resident bus rides from Kenmare VFW Auxiliary president
Sylvia Evenson. Evenson and locally active members Alice Kjos,
Maureen Munch and Theresa Ankenbauer voted to disband
the organization on May 9th because of the group's small size.
Evenson is the last remaining charter member of the organization
living in Kenmare.
By Caroline Downs
The Auxiliary of the Kenmare Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 7049 is in the process of disbanding, nearly 65 years after the group organized in 1946.
Sylvia Evenson, who serves as the auxiliary’s current president, said the number of members attending meetings has become too small to sustain the group.
“We have 36 members on the rolls now,” said Alice Kjos, secretary and treasurer for the group, “but a lot of them have moved away or live in [nursing] homes.”
According to Kjos, the membership boasted 70 ladies or more at one time. “And 50 would come to the meetings,” she said. “That was after the war.”
The VFW Auxiliary organized on September 5, 1946. Wives, sisters and mothers of World War II veterans in Kenmare came together to support their soldiers who returned from the Pacific and European battle zones.
According to a short article published in the September 19, 1946 issue of The Kenmare News, officers were elected and installed at the meeting, including Mrs. Lew J. Buzzell as president; Mrs. Mable Lytle, senior vice president; Mrs. Robert Schilken, junior vice president; Mrs. Warren Evenson, secretary; Mrs. Wallace Gorman, treasurer; Mrs. Frank Schumacher, chaplain; Mrs. Isabelle Johnson, historian; Mrs. Lena Evenson, guard; Mrs. Adolph Nygaard, conductress; Miss Carol Harris, patriotic instructor, and Mrs. A.J. Nygaard and Mrs. John Opitz, Jr. as trustees.
The Kenmare VFW Post No. 7049 had been organized earlier on May 8, 1946, with 20 members. Warren Evenson was named commander of the post, with Wally Gorman as senior vice commander and Virgil Stark as junior vice commander.
Sylvia Evenson is the only remaining charter member of the group still living. Kjos joined the next year when she and her husband returned to Kenmare.
“Warren got the men together [for the VFW post] and I got the women,” Evenson said. “The men liked to have an auxiliary. We wanted to just get started, and by the next year there were a lot of [members].”
“I remember we took in 25 members at one meeting,” Kjos added.
Four members, with Theresa Ankenbauer and Maureen Munch, made up the final meeting on May 9, 2011. “We can’t even call this a meeting,” Evenson said. “We must have six members present to have a meeting.”
Kjos ticked off the names of several former members, as Evenson nodded her head at memories of the women. “They were good members who died or went to a home,” she said when Kjos finished, “except for us four!”
The two agreed the auxiliary meetings provided entertainment for the mothers and housewives who were members, as well as serving to assist the VFW post. “We had two meetings a month,” Kjos recalled. “One was business and one was entertainment.”
That entertainment took a variety of forms, including popular bingo nights, other game nights, dances and Santa Claus visits for the kids. The group traveled to the veterans’ hospital in Minot at least monthly, where they shared home-baked cookies with the patients and presented an annual program. “They’d see you coming with a cookie cart and everybody would come!” Evenson said.
The auxiliary raised funds with bake sales and by serving meals and refreshments at dances in the area, including an annual New Year’s dance. “The men put on the dance, and we served the lunch,” Evenson said.
She and Kjos listed other favorite activities with the auxiliary, including VFW family picnics in the summer, poppy sales every spring, and turkey suppers feeding huge crowds at the Memorial Hall.
The auxiliary celebrated their 60th anniversary with dinner in a local restaurant, but the group will disband before they reach their 65th anniversary.
Kjos and Evenson explained current members would be free to join another chapter if they liked. The charter, treasurer’s record and secretary’s books will be returned to the state office.
Funds remaining in the auxiliary’s account will be used to make donations to the North Dakota Veterans Home in Lisbon and the VFW Cancer Research Fund, and to purchase tables for use in Kenmare’s Jaycees Park and Centennial Park. The auxiliary has also contributed money through the years to the Baptist Home of Kenmare and Kenmare Community Hospital to help pay fuel costs and other expenses associated with bus rides for the residents, and one of their final acts was to donate another $500 through Kenmare Wheels & Meals to the hospital activities fund for more of those rides.
A long-standing tradition of the VFW Auxiliary has been the Reading of the Scroll during the Memorial Day service held in Kenmare each year. Members of the Auxiliary will read the names of those deceased soldiers for the last time at the service planned for May 30th at 10 am in the city park.
Evenson, who worked so hard in 1946 to form the Auxiliary, made the motion nearly 65 years later to officially disband the organization. Munch offered the second.
“Everybody in favor, say ‘aye,’” said Evenson, coming full circle as the group’s president. “Motion carried.”