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Iona’s VFW Auxiliary celebrates 65 years strong

November 21, 2012

By JoAnn Biren
The Iona VFW, Veterans of a Foreign War, became a social organization first and was soon followed by the women who formed the VFW Auxiliary 65 years ago. These were the men and the women who helped win the war that was to end all wars, who came home quietly and went back to the lives they had left. They were an honor to their family and their country. They were true patriots, not self-serving, but serving, the men and women who built a strong country by helping each other.

They called themselves the Galles Piepgras VFW Post and Auxiliary. The name came from Sylvester Galles who died on March 19, 1945 and Leonard Piepgras who was a member of the 8th Air Force and died on April 9, 1945. Their mothers, Virginia Galles and Hulda Piepgras were charter members of the Auxiliary.

The VFW was organized on November 30, 1947 and a short time later the Auxiliary met for the first time on December 18, 1947.

Through the years Iona saw some good times with the gathering of the VFW and the Auxiliary. The many Memorial Day celebrations, a parade or two when they held a party, Santa coming to town to visit the young and the not so young, their legions of Poppy Queens and their ethic of hard work and hard play. They never forgot why the war was fought. They honored those who lost their lives and those who may have come back home with a broken spirit. There wasn’t much finger pointing, just picking up and digging in, to start a family, a business, run a farm. These were the bravest of men and women.

When the Iona VFW celebrated their 50th anniversary 15 years ago, the charter members who attended included Joe Scully, Shewood Worden, Walter Scott, Vincent Crowley, Wally Dysthe, Joe Ackerman, William (Jr.) Lentz, Andy Baumgartner, John Ehlringer, Harold Fitzgerald, Anton Gaul, John (Jack) Schoo and Frank Spartz. Today Walter Scott and Vince Crowley remain. The remaining members of the Auxiliary include Della Dysthe, Irene Worden (Kramer) and Evelyn Lentz.

The spirit of those gone before remain. The days of a vibrant social service community is no more, today life is different. This is a generation where many have never known the fears and the needs that come from living through a war. And, if they do, that war is a different war and they do not feel it necessary to join together after they are back on home soil.

And yet, the Auxiliary continues to serve others, to help out at the nursing home in Luverne, to select a Poppy Queen each year, to continue to honor their deceased members at Badger Lake and St. Columba Cemetery each Memorial Day and to gather after for donuts and coffee in the hall.

Karen Kremer, along with her sisters, Cassie and Michele were Poppy Queens. So too was Kris Hentges, Jennifer Einck, Dawn Henning to name a few of the queens who sold poppies for the organization.

Sharon Spartz Lais was the District 3 Teenage Citizen in 1972 and her brother Rod in 1976 was a runner up for the position.

They are most proud of the work they have done to recognize fallen veterans with the display of the American flag in front of the Murray County Government Center each week. This was done for many years, and spearheaded by the Iona Auxiliary. A write up, the work of long-time member Clara Spartz, was placed in the Wheel Herald each week to highlight the individual honored.

Today, Dorothy Gehlsen is the president of the organization and her daughter, Mary Ann (Snooks) Boock is the secretary.

The cake and an evening out at Kadupers in Iona was the celebration of the Auxiliary’s 65th birthday party. There was laughter and there was reminiscing. Many talked about what had been. Those who joined years ago did so with pride, or as Della Dysthe and Marge Ackerman said quietly and with pride, "Our husbands were in the service."

Conversation ebbed and flowed and the memories were good. Good memories of good people.

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