Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy Culver, Marshall, Indiana

VFW Finney-Shilling Post #6919  

VFW Finney-Shilling Post #6919
108 E. Washington Street Culver, Indiana

The Post

The beginning was April, 1946, when a group of World War II vets "anxious to strike out on their own" rather than join the existing Alexander Fleet Post American Legion post #103; announced the formation of a VFW post in Culver. Initial membership was 75 men, and on Sunday, May 26, in Culver's community building, the Finney-Shilling Post #6919 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was officially born, named for two local casualties of that second Great War in Europe. Frank Timmons was the first Post Commander.

1945 - May 29 - The Fiunney-Shilliing Post No. 6919 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was formally received into the national organization Sunday when formal ceremonies were held in the Community Building.

The Post took possession of its new home at 108 E. Washington Street less than a year later, in January, 1947. The VFW, of course, has remained at the site -- though with major improvements and renovations through the years -- ever since.

The main floor was divided between meeting space and the kitchen facilities, while the basement was to be remodeled into a canteen.

As the Post's official history notes, such timely progress was remarkable considering most of the founding members were young men in the process of putting their lives back together after two to even five years of service in World War II.

The Post formed in spite of the well-established existence of a local American Legion Post in Culver Longtime member Roger Wise recalls founding members telling the two organizations grew from somewhat different wishes on the part of members. A lot of the young guys wanted to drink and have dances, and that sort of thing," says Wise. The Legion didn't have a bar or anything. Originally they wanted to have a joint Legion and VFW together, but the young guys said, 'This won't work,' so they went on their own.

VFW Post 6919 was named after two local veterans: Patrick L. Finney (1915 - 1941), a 1933 Culver High School graduate who -- after enlisting in 1940 -- was a member of the 26th Bombardment Squadron, killed at the Japanese raid on Hickam Field December 7, 1941. John Richard Shilling (1924 - 1944) graduated from Culver Military Academy and enlisted in July, 1943 as an Infantryman. He was killed during an attack on a German-held hill in Gesso, Italy, in October, 1944. The two are commemorated in a display in the Post building.

1948 - April 21 - After several months of inactivity and uncertainty, the local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars has been reorganized and new officers elected to head the organization.

An early ad which appearing in the 1952 culver citizen

The Father's Auxiliary which was chartered January 1, 1953, for fathers, step-fathers, and foster-fathers of servicemenand that organization, on a national level, has since fallen by the wayside

1950 -- May 30 - Memoral Day Rite to Honor Culver Soldiers Who Died Serving Nation; the community and all oginazations was asked to participate.

In June, 1958, after several years of denials, the Post received its three-way liquor license, members arguing theirs had always been a private club and thus not subject to typical town laws regarding serving of alcohol.

Post 6919's roster of Post Commanders often reads like a who's who of local family names active in Culver's past. They include Frank Timmons (1946-47), (Judge) Bill Riggens, Norman Baker, Joe Morrison, Ted Strang, Olen Osborn, Mark Steinberger, Jack Sanders, Wayne Hissong, Shirley Carter, Kenneth Tasch, Maurice Bennett, Robert Gibbons, Emil (Bud) Ruhnow Sr., C. Art Bennett, Robert Lemar, Gene Reister, Ray Houghton, Leonard Sherwood, Ora Reed, Allen Cornett Sr., Roger Wise, Edward (Joe) Miller, Robert Albert, Robert Kibbler, Jack Washburn, Kenneth Walter, Charles Kesmodel, Gordon Uyttebrouck, Rich Kelso, Dennis Geiger, Ed London, L.B. Montgomery, and others in more recent years.

The Post appointed an officer in the 1970s and early 80s whose mission was simply to get the Culver Citizen and other media to cover the Post. Vets were not particularly popular. The Culver VFW fought hard to improve our image in the community. They weren't getting good press, even though they were doing all the good things that they do now.

In July, 1976, among local observances of the nation's bicentennial, the southeast corner of Culver's Masonic cemetery was deeded to the Post. Flag poles, canons, and other memorials honoring local and national veterans were placed at the site, which today remains the central location of the Post's annual observations of Memorial and Veteran's Days.

The VFW -- locally and nationally -- has three main thrusts: service to veterans, to the community, and other organizations. They contribute financially to over 39 local and national causes; one being the VFW's National Home for children.

The annual Patriot's Pen and Voice of Democracy contests for local students -- with which the Post joins the Men's and Ladies' Auxiliaries to facilitate -- are of great importance as well

The VFW as a national organization traces its history back to 1899 and the priority is making sure American veterans of foreign wars are taken care of. In addition, the national group keeps track of, and proposes, laws which affect veterans, with an eye on their long-term care.

A local posts priorities are donating money to the families of deployed servicemen or those not deployed but struggling financially. Such efforts stay in members-only meetings and are not made public.

There are approximately 150 members as of 2011 and are certain to be present at Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and other veterans-related observances at Culver's Masonic cemetery and elsewhere. Members also may take charge of grave decoration or place flags on the headstones of veterans, not only at the Masonic, but many lesser-known cemeteries around the area. When requested, they are also present to add rites to the funerals of area veterans. Members visit veterans in the local nursing home as well, both as a group on Veteran's Day, and as individuals at various times.

Another lesser-known facet of the Culver Post's offerings are what's available in the building itself. The facility may be commonly thought of as providing a gathering spot for local veterans and their families to eat, drink, and socialize -- which of course it does but it's also a restaurant open to the public, in addition to the availability of meeting space in its upper floor.

The Post is open for lunch daily and it offers a wide variety of of food and everyone's welcome regardless of style of dress or background. The affordable prices of the meals, and most importantly, the proceeds go into their projects for veterans and community. The Post's weekly bingo nights each Saturday and are family-oriented and have been ongoing since 1991, and were originally launched by Rich kelso.

Also there are the Friday meals, another popular community event. The various branches of Culver's VFW -- including the Post and Ladies' and Men's Auxiliaries -- take charge of different nights. The Post is on hand cooking on first and Fifth Fridays and the menu is always the prime rib meal.

The Building

The building was built in May 1913 by H. H. Austin

a 1930's photo only shows the entrance door area of the porch of the building which was then occupied by the Culver Citizen

In May, 1969, the Post suffered extensive fire damage to its interior, enough that it was decided to remove the third floor of the building, that floor at the time had an apartment occupied by Tom Walker.

Members took an interesting approach to converting the three-story structure to a two-story one. They built the roof inside the third floor before removing that floor and then tore down the third floor. This allowed uninterrupted use of the building while adding the convenience of roofing a building while still indoors!

Many members made the ongoing upkeep of the Post building possible, citing the work of Jack Sanders, Bud Ruhnow, and others in particular.

In December, 1972, the old house at the corner of Plymouth and Washington Streets was purchased by the Post for $5,700 though for years it was unused by the Post. By March, 1988, the house had fallen into disrepair and was demolished, and two Post horseshoe pits installed in its place.

Some internal debate within Post membership preceded the April, 1995 decision to seek a bank loan to create an addition to the existing building.

The addition of a handicapped ramp to enter the building helped convince some reluctant members of the value of the move. The creation of the full kitchen downstairs also allowed for expansion of meeting space on the upper floor

Ladies Auxiliary

The Post 6919's Ladies Auxiliary group has been in existence just a year less than the post itself, and its contributions have enhanced the Post and the community immeasurably. On Sunday afternoon, March 30, 1947, 34 members were instituted into the newly-formed VFW Post 6919 Ladies Auxiliary, with Trelba Listenberger the first president, and Grace Talley vice president senior.

The national President of the VFW's Ladies Auxiliary, Sally Cannon, in fact, came to Culver to install the new organization.

Virginia Baker Booker is the only living member of that charter group, though Chuckie Strang -- joined soon after the Ladies charter, in 1948 and has her 60 year pin. Mary Lou Wise joined the Auxiliary in Plymouth in 1954, and transferred to the Culver Post in 1967 and received her 55 pin in 2009.

The first Ladies Auxiliary meetings in Culver took place upstairs in the 'Lion's Den' home of Culver's Lions Club, on the east side of Main Street above what was then the A&P grocery store. After, the group was brought into the Post building itself .

"Every woman had a uniform, in the early years. Grace Talley also sewed all of the original uniforms for the Auxiliary.

Margaret Dehne has been President of the organization for 2009 - 2011 and she joined in August 1996 celebraing her 25th anniversary.

The ladies Auxilary group exists for wives, daughters, granddaughters, and mothers of veterans of overseas combat.

The Auxiliary attends local government meetings to represent the organization and keep abreast of the community.

The Post and the Men's and Ladies' Auxiliaries -- do a big fish fry and the proceeds go to whoever the Men's Auxiliary sets up as the benifiary.

The Auxiliary donates to area hospitals, serves veterans at an annual bingo party in Lafayette, and contributes to the VFW's National Home for Children.

The Auxiliary presently has 167 members, whose participation, of course, also fills a social role.

Longtime member and past State President of the Auxiliary Mary Lou Wise keeps an eye on veteran's-related happenings at the national level, and writes a lot of letters and email people to tell them about these things, to be sure they're told about it. besides putting things in the bi-monthly newsletter...which she has been editor of for 41 years. The newsletter has won awards at the state convention time after time.besides being awarded nine times for best newsletter on a national level.

Blue Star flags are given to families with a member in the armed forces, she adds, to be placed in their windows.

Another ongoing tradition is that of Buddy Poppy Day, which takes place over Memorial Day weekend, and which raises funds for military families with ailing veterans, and veterans' hospitals.

Men's Auxiliary

he VFW Post 6919 Men's Auxiliary is the youngest of the Post's many organizations, both in terms of the age of its members, and its longevity as an official organization. The Culver Auxiliary, which formed March 13, 2003, has brought new vitality to the Post.

The national VFW once had a Father's Auxiliary for fathers of overseas serving veterans, but as members died off, a movement grew to create a broader Men's Auxiliary on a ntaional level. Members must have a father, mother, brother, or immediate family member in overseas service.

One major fund raiser is the Friday dinners held at the Post, with the various entities housed there taking turns organizing and cooking. The Men's group handles every third Friday.

There's a lot they do from fish fries to hog roasts, soup cook-offs to Superbowl parties, there's constant efforts to raise funds for good causes.

Other activities for the Auxiliary's approximately 65 members include regular get- togethers, extensive cleaning sessions at the Post building .

There's also an Auxiliary-sponsored membership picnic for all the Post's groups to thank them for their membership and contributions, and more.

The Men's Auxiliary always welcomes new members,those interested are encouraged to stop by the Post and ask for an application, after which they'll be checked for eligability.

This Post would be closed if not for the members and the younger crowd we bring in. The Ladies Auxiliary has more members than the Post and Men's Auxiliary put together.

The post is here to make sure that they've got a safe and fun place to relax and enjoy themselves, and serve the community.

Culver's VFW Post can also boast what must surely be one of the most extensive and thorough documentations of its past of any area organization. A detailed timeline recording every appearance of the organization in the local press, each major event, Commanders and officers, and the history of various specific aspects of the Post was created with painstaking care and is lodged at the Post for reference and safekeeping. The Ladies Auxiliary documented its activities year-by-year with intricately detailed scrapbooks which in many ways tell the story of Culver as a community, and include a veritable treasure trove of local photos and information unavailable elsewhere. Those interested in delving more deeply into the organization's lengthy history will be well rewarded by a visit to the Post.

On July 20, 2015, when delegates to the VFWs 116th National Convention in Pittsburgh the ladiesand mens AUxillary combined together to be the VFW Auxiliary.

condensed from articles of 19 May and 26 May 2011 appearing in Culver citzien by Jeff Kenney

more of the Veteran of Foreign Wars & VFW Auxiliary can be found on the national website.

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