Brooklyn Ruritan Club honors Veterans, celebrates 100th birthday of Francis Gallagher American Legion Post 294
Brooklyn’s Don Brannian, standing, shakes hands while visiting with World War II Veteran Dale Watts, a long-time Montezuma resident and former business owner, during a meet and greet at the Veterans event hosted by the Brooklyn Ruritan Club on Wednesday, Nov. 10 at the Michael J. Manatt Community Center. At left is Dale’s son, Brian, standing, and Veteran Dennis Latcham, both of Montezuma, who are listening in.
Veterans and their guests came from Brooklyn, Montezuma, Deep River, Grinnell, Oskaloosa, Newton, Pella and even South Dakota to celebrate Veterans Day and the 100th year birthday of Brooklyn’s Francis Gallagher American Legion Post 294.
The local American Legion Post turned 100 in 2020. The celebration was postponed a year due to Covid.
Hosted by the Brooklyn Ruritan Club, the event was held on Wednesday, Nov. 10 at the Michael J. Manatt Community Center.
Ruritan Club members prepared and served a traditional Thanksgiving meal of ham, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and rolls.
Veterans organizations in attendance were recognized and Francis Gallagher Post 294 Commander Ron Brown cut the 100-year birthday cake, which was served to all guests.
Stanley Walford, a World War II Veteran, received a 75-year membership certificate to the Francis Gallagher American Legion Post 294. Walford spoke of his time in the war, touching on Cpl. Harold “Pie” Keller, the Brooklyn Marine and one of six soldiers who placed the American Flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Kay Keller Maurer, the daughter of Keller, was in attendance and became emotional a couple times during Walford’s speech. A memorial to Cpl. Harold “Pie” Keller is slated to be erected at the Brooklyn Flag Display in 2022.
Ray “Bubba” Sorenson II, the Freedom Rock founder and artist, was the guest speaker. He shared the story of how the original Freedom Rock, an approximately 60-ton, 12-foot tall boulder that sits on private property in the countryside along Highway 25 in Adair County, closest to the small town of Menlo, was started. Sorenson has painted the rock every Memorial Day since 1999. He also shared about the 99-county Freedom Rock Tour, which he just finished in September. Poweshiek County’s Freedom Rock is located on southeast corner of the Poweshiek County Courthouse Square in Montezuma.
Others speakers included Jim Foels, president of the Ruritan Club; Roger Van Ersvelde, who honored the 13 American Soldiers killed in Afghanistan in August; and Randy Johnson, Department of Iowa Vice Commander with the American Legion, who spoke on getting involved in a Veteran’s organization. The event also included the posting and retiring of colors by legion members, a prayer led by Legion Chaplain Rodney Horrigan, the singing of “America,” led by Don Lastovka and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Kayden Heishman, a BGM student.
A Quilt of Valor presentation was given by the Ruritan Club with this year’s quilt being presented to Korean War Veteran Gene Osborn. The quilt was made by Kristin Kasal.
A quilt, which was made by Judy Wacha, a veteran, and quilted by Jane Bazen, was presented to Rusty Clayton of the Ruritan Club for his dedication to the Veterans.
“I and very humbled and appreciate Judy’s kindness,” noted Clayton.
In addition, a Henry Repeating Arms 22 caliber Golden Boy Rifle was raffled off with the gun being won by Brooklyn’s Don Brannian. Proceeds from the gun raffle, which raised approximately $2,800, will go toward the Harold “Pie” Keller Memorial.
“The Brooklyn Ruritan Club is proud of our Veterans and feel that they are an important part of our free nation,” added Clayton. “By hosting a special Thanksgiving meal for our Veterans and their families it is a small token of appreciation for their sacrifices. It is very rewarding to all of us as an organization and the community we live in.”
“I’m glad everyone showed up and helped us celebrate 100 years of the Francis Gallagher American Legion Post 294 in Brooklyn,” noted Commander Brown, a U.S. Army Combat Veteran who served during the Viet Nam War. “All the veterans that were there were very honored that the Ruritans provided the supper for them.”