Lapel American Legion has a century of history

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Ray Tincher Submitted

American Legion was established in Paris, France, March 15, 1919, by a thousand officers, plus enlisted and men and women as delegates from all branches of the military.
Later that year, the Legion was formally recognized by Congress.
Next, in the United States, Legion executive committees were formed. One of those committee members was Theodore Roosevelt Jr. That makes this veterans organization more than 100 years old.

Column continues below photos.


The American Legion is a nonprofit organization. Through the years, the Legion has been instrumental in drafting and supporting legislation.
One such act was the G.I. Bill, which has assisted veterans in many ways. A couple of those ways are financial assistance with education and purchasing a home. In addition, the Legion has been a savior with turning the VA healthcare system around.
American Legion National Headquarters is in Indianapolis.
Just recently, it changed eligibility for membership. The Legion magazine states, “Veterans who served at least one day of active duty during wartime, or serving now, are potentially eligible for membership. Members must have been honorably discharged or still serving honorably.”
Dates of eligibility: April 6, 1917-Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941, to current. Merchant Mariners who served from Dec. 7, 1941, to Dec. 31, 1946, are also eligible.
While the Legion effort was taking place in Paris, back in Lapel, Indiana, American Legion Post 212 was one of the very early veterans organizations being formed, with its first Commander Willis Presser. That makes Legion Post 212 also more than 100 years old. There are 37 names of residents on the original post charter. Through the years, membership has exceeded 200 members. The present membership is about 140 members.
The Lapel Legion post was named in part in honor of Jay Emmett Whetsel.
He was born in Lapel. He was the first member of the armed forces to be drafted from this community in the Second World War and the first to be killed in the conflict.
PFC Whetsel was killed at Kasserine Pass in North Africa on March 10, 1943, while serving with the 133rd Infantry, Company C, 34th Division. The jeep in which he was riding ran over a land mine.
His body was interred in the American Cemetery at Tebessa, Algeria, until being brought to America for burial in Lapel.
His parents were Guy and Blanche Whetsel. Siblings include Trevor Whetsel, Jackie Whetsel Howell and Patty Whetsel Corn, all of Lapel.
The Legion has many parts to it.
The American Legion Riders is one of the fastest-growing organizations today.
The Lapel Legion Riders is under the command of Bob Turner.
Their rider groups have already exceeded millions of dollars in contributions to charities. With their membership energy, they are well on their way in helping our community.
The next time you see a motorcycle rider coming down the road, don’t be surprised if it is an attorney, banker or businessman or woman riding that bike.
The Sons of Legion President is Rusty Whetsel. There are presently 67 members of the SOL.
The Ladies Auxiliary President is Marilyn Elsten.
These two organizations provide great support with community projects. Their importance to the Legion post is insurmountable.
Legion Post 212 is managed by volunteers. The only paid employees are the bartender and cooks.
At this point in time, for some reason, the Legion membership is shrinking. It appears many young veterans might be too busy to join.
The declining membership could be a serious problem in time, because the Legion has many charities dependent on its funds. The Lapel post supports many school projects, Little League baseball and the local food pantry, to mention a few.
During the pandemic experienced by everyone, the local Legion post was also forced to close for several weeks. However, the Legion’s charities continued throughout that time.
Past commanders have shared some of their recollections:
Rick Woodward was commander from 1977-78: “During my time as commander, we helped start the community parade, which is now part of the annual Village Fair,” Woodward said.
Skip Turner was commander from 1978-79: “We started the kitchen while I was commander. We now are able to serve breakfasts and dinner meals.”
Gerald Lowhorn was commander from 1992-94. “We had good attendance with Karaoke. People from all over the county enjoyed the music.”
Each year, the local Legion post awards student scholarships and Student Americanism awards and more. It also supports Little League baseball and American Legion Baseball programs. Each year, the local food pantry receives financial assistance from the Legion.
For many years at Christmastime, Legion members have located families in need and provided food assistance to them.
And don’t forget Boy Scouts Troop 361, which is supported by the Lapel Legion.
One of the money raisers for Legion projects is the “Treasurer Hunt.”
Every Wednesday evening, if you buy a one-dollar ticket, you have an opportunity to win a jackpot. If your name is drawn, you will win a minimum of $20. In past times, winners have won from $5,000 to $10,000. The Treasurer Hunt is so popular, a Legion post in Knox, Indiana, had a jackpot of more than $100,000.
Gambling is strictly controlled by the State of Indiana. The Legion is required to have a certificate permitting this game. You do not need to be a Legion member to participate, and you do not need to be present to win!
One of the duties that falls on the Legion 212 Honor Guard is funerals. All veterans are eligible for the honor guard service. When veteran die, the funeral home contacts Gerald Lowhorn, the Legion officer in charge of the honor guard. The honor guard conducts funeral home or graveside services with the presenting of a flag, a military prayer and the 21-gun salute. The youngest member of the Honor Guard is 66 years old.
So, the next time you drive by Lapel American Legion Post 212, you will know it isn’t just a place to have a beer. It is part of your community.
Since 1919, there are eight past commanders still living — Henry (Doc) Galliher, Skip Turner, Curt Basler, Leonard Cook, Gerald Lowhorn, Cricket Elsten, Jack Hazelwood, Steve Short — plus present Commander Tony Pearson.
If you are a veteran in need, contact Dan Gathman, post service officer. He has a record of assisting veterans with health problems and assisting with the VA system.
This writer is approaching his 50th year as a member of the American Legion and is proud to be a member.
Ray Tincher attended Ball State University and retired from Indiana Department of Correction in 1997. He worked at IDOC for 30 years, serving in a variety of roles, from correctional officer to warden. At retirement, he received the Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Gov. Frank O’Bannon. He wrote several training manuals as part of his employment and is a published author: “Inmate #13225 John Herbert Dillinger (2007).” He and his wife, Marilyn, live in Lapel.

Past American Legion Commanders
1919-20 Willis Presser
1920-22 Ernest Presser
1922-23 Lester Finley
1923-24 Hershel Woodward
1924-25 Hallie Tishner
1925-26 Kenneth Paulsel
1926-27 Angus Layton
1927-28 Earl Presser
1928-29 George Rambo
1929-30 Kenneth Paulsel
1930-31 Walter McClintock
1931-32 Kenneth Paulsel
1932-33 C. Lester McDonald
1933 Ernest Presser
1933-34 Floyd T. Walker
1934-35 Hallie Tishner
1935-36 William Clifford
1936-37 Van Mills
1937-38 Paul Sheller
1938-40 William Clifford
1940 C. Lester McDonald
1940-41 Leon Anderson
1941-42 Kenneth Paulsel
1942-43 George Cummings
1943-44 George Whitmill
1944-45 Lester Finley
1945-46 Hershel Croy
1946-47 Ova Wise
1947-48 Clark Herron
1948-49 A. Boyd Ford
1949-50 Charles Boone
1950-51 Bernard Schick
1951-52 Rex Forrer
1952-53 Alvin Heiny
1953-54 Russell Sheller
1954-55 William Noblitt
1955-56 Wilbur Moore
1956-57 James Graham
1957-58 Herbert Newton
1958-59 David Chaille
1959-60 Thomas R. Richardson
1960-61 Frank Maxwell
1961-62 Dan Richardson
1962-63 William Frick
1963-64 A. Boyd Ford
1964-65 Ernest Huffman
1965-66 Alvin Jenkins
1966-67 Billie McMillian
1967-68 Ed Kincaid
1968-69 Alvin Heiny
1969-70 Wilbur Moore
1970-71 Ted Montgomery
1971-72 James Boyll
1972-73 Paul Roudebush
1973-74 Phillip Hesson
1974-75 James Turner
1975-76 Thomas Cloverdale
1976-77 Henry (Doc) Galliher*
1977-78 Rick Woodward*
1978-79 Allen “Skip” Turner*
1979-80 Jay Hersberger
1980-81 William Owens
1981-82 Curt Basler*
1982-83 Norman Noble
1983-84 George Sheller
1984-85 Lewis E. Armstrong
1985-86 Leonard Cook*
1986-88 William Kelly
1988-89 Jay Hersberger
1989-92 Richard (Dick) Gudgel
1992-94 Gerald Lowhorn*
1994-95 Clarence “Scotty” Clark
1995-98 Max Callahan
1998-2003 Tony Pearson*
2003-04 Cricket Elsten*
2004-07 Tony Pearson*
2007-08 Steve Short*
2008-11 Tony Pearson*
2011-13 Jack Hazelwood*
2013-14 Roger Baker
2014-15 Steve Short*
2015-21 Tony Pearson*

*denotes living commanders