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Legion honors Chaputs, finds history

News editor

Members of James William Miesse American Legion Post had kept Gary and Karen Chaput in the dark about a surprise farewell for them last week. What they didn’t know was a second surprise loomed even bigger.

The Chaputs were instrumental in re-establishing the post in 2007, after it had gone dormant due to low membership. Gary has served as post adjutant since the post re-activated, and Karen served as auxiliary president for the first two.

“When we re-established there were only 22 members, and they’d sold the old post home,” Gary said. “We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time since we re-established the post, and it keeps growing.”

The Chaputs are moving to Missouri in February, and the group stopped its meeting to spring its surprise — a custom-made wall-hanging from the Copper Shed, a card, cake, and refreshments.

“We’re really going to be at a loss without him,” Service Officer Leslie Schneider said of Gary. “He’s done the job of three Legionnaires for years, because our membership has been low.”

Schneider made the presentation, but she had another announcement to make.

“There’s some things that none of you know I’ve kept a secret,” she said. “There’s something special that came to light. We thought a lot of the history had been destroyed — it hasn’t, and I have it.”

She handed a box to the Chaputs.

“Our whole history is here,” she said. “We’re not a new post at all. This goes back to the early 1900s. I wanted you to be the first to see it since you’ve worked so hard.”

Members had searched for the old records for years, but most considered them gone for good.

That changed last week when Alex Case discovered the box while cleaning at the Case and Son Insurance office.

“It was sitting in the mail room, sitting on the shelves, in a box that I’ve been looking at off and on for 20 some years,” Case said. “My dad had all that stuff. It’s a bunch of old documents. It’s the history of the James William Miesse American Legion going back to the early 1900s in Marion.”

Gary and Karen pulled items out of the box, looking at some while sharing the rest. Members eagerly scanned old rosters for familiar names, and tried identifying faces in old photos.

“It’s Marion history that’s been discovered — it’s exciting,” Schneider said. “I think a lot of people will be interested to see what their grandparents and their dads did.”

“I always knew there had to be history somewhere, but we couldn’t find it,” Gary said. “To have it show up like this out of nowhere, it’s kind of a confirmation this post is in good hands.

It’s a unique find, like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It gives us new hope and new faith.”

Last modified Jan. 14, 2015

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