Mariah Karson Photography

American Legion Altenburg Post 497

Franklin Grove, IL - Statistical Overview

Chartered shortly after World War I in February, 1930 with 26 original members.

Meeting hall donated to the post by Miss Blanche Durkes, a WWI nurse, from the estate of Luther Durkes, an original charter member of the post.

Members have consistently improved the post building with total remodeling of the interior in 2012, most of the cost being paid from a memorial fund donated by families of deceased members.

Some accomplishments include:
- Awarding of the American Legion Medal of Appreciation to veterans returning from overseas service.
- Sponsoring of an exterior mural with message "Freedom Is Not Free".
- The giving of a beautiful commemorative bible: Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish, to the family of each deceased post member.
- Yearly sponsoring delegates comprised of high school juniors to an summer Leadership Training for boys and girls.

Their purpose: "To honor all military veterans of this community and to be of greater service to our community."

Paid membership as of 10/21/2014 - 20

Thank you to Nachusa Grasslands and The Nature Conservancy for continued support

Post 497. The building is next to The Lincoln Way Cafe, a local favorite establishment. In the mornings, elderly local men and women gather for coffee, chit chat, and (on Tuesdays and Thursdays) card games.

Willard D. Simpson, 90
T/5, Company B, 103rd Engineers Battalion 12/1/1943 - 2/28/1946

Joined The American Legion 1969
Current Position: Member

Willard Simpson helps his wife, Maxine, with her coat. They met as teenagers, and after Willard was drafted into the Army during WW2 they corresponded with letters during his service. He kept a photo of her with him the entire time, and married her shortly after being discharged. They had four children together and still love eachother very much.

Willard Simpson was part of the legendary 28th Division in WW2 and kept a map of their path as part of his scrapbook.

William J. "Bill" Kirchhofer, 89
Flight Officer, Army Air Corps 10/1943 - 3/1946

Joined The American Legion March 1954
Current Position: Finance Officer

Ivan J. Hullah, 91
Corporal IS, Army 10/5/1944 - 8/9/1946

Joined The American Legion 1963
Current Position: Service Officer

At 91 years old, Ivan Hullah continues to do his own landscaping. In the fall, while picking apples, he hurt his back and needed to start using a walker.

Ivan Hullah's living room. He lives alone in a large home, his wife passed away and he does not have children. He finds support from his fellow veterans and retired farming community.

Delbert H. Schafer, 83
Sergeant, Army 8/1952 - 7/1954

Joined The American Legion 1968
Current Position: Chaplain

Proud to still fit into his uniform, Mr. Schafer holds a photo of himself taken while in service as a Motor Sergeant in the Army during the Korean War.

Delbert H. Schafer has his original discharge paperwork, as well as several other documents from his service in Korea.

Mr. Schafer's decorations and service medals include a Korean Service Ribbon, United States Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant and Bronze Service Star.

Mr. Schafer joined The American Legion to support his local post and community. His favorite annual event is the Memorial Day parade, which he has participated in since he was first able to walk as a young boy.

Delbert Schafer still works; he runs a family tractor repair service that he started over 60 years ago. "I was raised on Oldsmobile cars and Chevy trucks... I have been driving tractors since I was 6 years old. If you know how many tractors you have, you don't have enough."

Anthony Parks, 69
Electronics Radarman, Navy 1966- 1969

Joined the American Legion 1990 Current Position: Member (deceased)

Mr. Parks is in the late stages of terminal cancer. He spent most of his life collecting and repairing radios and built a radio museum in a 2,000 sq/ft structure behind his home. Due to his illness, he had not been able to go into the building in the last two years, and his wife Madlyn helped him into the building so he could show me his beloved radios.

George E. "Ed" Floto, 78
ET-2, US Navy 1954 - 1962

Joined The American Legion 1993
Current Position: Adjutant

"Ed" Floto and his wife, Larena, at one of their storage rental properties in Franklin Grove. Together, the couple own several properties including a self service laundry and car wash. After being discharged from the Navy, Ed worked as a tv and appliance technician with his education in electronics maintenance and repair from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

Donald E. Asp, 73
Private, Army 1964 - 1970

Joined The American Legion 2008
Current Position: Vice Commander (deceased)

Mr. Asp comes from a military family, his father was a member of the VFW and his younger three brothers enlisted after he was drafted in early 1964 at the age of 23. He says WWII and the Korean War were fought to preserve freedom, and as a member of the military he supports them but considers himself more of a "back seat driver".

As a truck driver during harvest season, Mr. Asp spends up to 12 hours a day hauling corn to the local elevator. One haul of corn weighs about 50,000 pounds with a moisture content of 23%. The corn is heated and dried, then shipped for use as animal feed, ethanol, or corn syrup production.

Dean Gendusa, 67
Specialist E-5, Army 6/1965 - 6/1969

Joined The American Legion
Current Position: Commander

Mr. Gendusa's female Alpacas on his farm, "Misty Valley".

After a 1.5 hour daily commute home, Mr. Gendusa spends time feeding his animals and tending to his property. In addition to Alpaca farming, he has several other hobbies including RC helicopters, astronomy, and rebuilding an antique cannon.

American Legion Post 497, named for Harry Altenberg, a local WWI veteran.

Meetings are held every third Monday of the month at 7pm. Each meeting begins with the group reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion.

Memorabilia from the original members of Post 497. The American Legion is open to all veterans, regardless of service location. Although the post pays first year dues for new members, they struggle to get more veterans to join. Yearly dues for all members is $28. The post relies on donations from deceased members families, and recently lost a member who made large donations each year to assist with operating costs.

Folding chairs with American Legion seals are used as seating in Post 497.

Photos of deceased members of Post 497.

Three of the American Legion members started a community group called "Farming Heritage". They facilitate educational programming about traditional farming techniques and make Maple Syrup, which they donate to the Post for the annual Pancake Breakfast.

Charles W. "Charlie" Grobe, 69
Airman, Air Force 1965 - 1965

Joined The American Legion 2004
Current Position: Member

Mr. Grobe is active in the community, belonging not only to The American Legion but also as a member of The Elks Club, Loyal Order of Moose, and 40/8 Honor Society. When asked what is going to happen to Post 497 in the upcoming years, he replied "I don't know. One day they aren't going to be there. In the last year / year and a half we lost 4-5 members".

His two service dogs, one just a puppy, are a central part of his life along with his wife, Diane, and teenage granddaughter that has lived with him since his daughter passed away.

Franklin Grove is home to the Nature Conservancy's Nachusa Grasslands, which recently acquired 20 bison - the only preserve east of the Mississippi river that has bison in a prairie setting.

Fall at the Nachusa Grasslands. Once entirely prairie, the landscape today is primarily corn and soy crops.

Shortly after beginning my project, Don Asp passed away. His wife, Lynn, is the director of the Lincoln Highway Museum in the heart of Franklin Grove. She wrote Don's cause of death on a note paper and passed it around to the rest of the veterans and their wives at their morning coffee meeting the day after she heard the autopsy results.

Every morning at 10am veterans gather for coffee and baked goods inside the Lincoln Highway Museum.

Lincoln Highway National Headquarters and Museum- the building was owned by Delbert H. Schafer, who donated it to the Farming Heritage organization and leased to the Lincoln Highway Association. His donation contributes to the education of history of the area and the Lincoln Highway.

Mural commissioned for the side of the post building - "Freedom Is Not Free".

Members marching in the Memorial Day parade load WW2 rifles with blanks for the cemony at the Franklin Grove Cemetery.

Color guard presents flags and fires rifles at the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Franklin Grove Cemetery.

Commander Dean Gendusa and Sergeant at Arms Delbert Schafer lay flags on tables inside American Legion Post 497 after the conculsion of Memorial Day parade and ceremony.

Memorial Day flags are removed from temporary poles set up around the Franklin Grove cemetery and loaded into a pickup truck to be taken back to the Legion Post and folded.