January 25, 2021

American Legion celebrates 100 years

Celebration set for Sunday Sept. 20

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The American Legion Post 111 has been serving the community for 100 years and will be celebrated with a ceremony Sept. 20.

Legion members have spent the past six months planning the event to honor its century-long history. The program will begin at 4 p.m. at the post location, 1101 W. Fourth St. S. A free meal of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and an anniversary cupcake will be served at 5:30 p.m. Tables will be placed inside and outside of the legion hall to follow proper distancing guidelines.

More than a dozen awards and trophies will be displayed as well as patches that date back to 1919. The legion’s history will be on display in the form of photo albums, uniforms, newspaper clippings and more. Legion historian Mady McKim said a 30 minute video will play continuously throughout the event. Copies of the video will be for sale.

“Post 111 and it’s members have been serving the Newton Veterans and the community for 100 years, an amazing accomplishment,” post commander Jerry Nelson said.

Nelson has been in the role for the past five years. He became more involved with the legion after returning home from Afghanistan. His main goal is to be sure it remains a positive influence in the community.

Even with the ongoing COVID-19 concerns, it is important for the organization to honor the legion’s history. McKim said people can come and go as they are comfortable. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the venue and masks are not required but encouraged.

“We are anxious for the 100th to start but a bit scared that people will not come,” McKim said.

Celebrating the anniversary is important, McKim said, because it helps people to better understand the present.

“It is important to see and learn from the men and women in the past and in our future and to celebrate the accomplishments they made for our beautiful legion. One hundred years of service is not an easy task,” she said.

The American Legion Post 111’s history began when a temporary chapter was started in Newton in 1919 along with the auxiliary. The official chapter was launched in August 1920. At that time, the legion was very active in the community, sponsoring local sports teams in baseball, basketball, bowling, fowl shoot, rodeo and boxing.

McKim said the post used to have a Drum and Bugle Corps in the 1930s. It was common at that time to have these groups affiliated with the post. According to the Museum of Drum & Bugle Corps History website, these groups disbanded in the 1970s.

The legion has had several locations. In the 1940s, the post owned the building at 120 First Ave. E. and was very active during that time. McKim said there was always something going, from ceremonies, banquets, dances and more. It was then the legion reached 700 members.

The legion purchased its current building near Maytag Park in 1973. It was formerly Santen Grocery Store. In the 1990s, legion activity increased once again during the 75th anniversary.

“We sent lots of donations to the VA in Knoxville and in Marshalltown, worked with Boy Scouts and the baseball team we sponsored went to state,” McKim said.

In 2001, the legion officially added the American Legion Sons and shortly after the American Legion Riders. McKim said in 2010, the group hosted its first freedom flight and then the following year, had to close its doors because of financial difficulties.

McKim said the community rallied behind the local post and helped them dig out of the hole. In 2015, the legion remodeled the whole building and the murals that adorn the walls were donated.

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, the legion included. The usual activities had to be adapted. Ceremonies for Memorial Day and Flag Day were live streamed instead of the normal in-person events. However, it is important to still celebrate the storied history of the American Legion Post 111.

“I am proud of American Legion Post 111 and its members and am looking forward to the next 100 years. So if you’re a veteran, or a veteran’s spouse or family member, come join us in the Legion, or the Sons of the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary or the Legion Riders,” Nelson said.

All are welcome to attend the Sept. 20 celebration. It is free to attend but donations will be accepted. For more information, visit facebook.com/newtonpost111.

Contact Pam Pratt at 641-792-3121 ext. 6530 or pampratt@newtondailynews.com