Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 5, 2004

The Final Fifteen of Winsted's 'Last Man Club'

By Ryan Gueningsman

Fifteen members remain in an exclusive club of some of Winsted’s World War II veterans at the Winsted American Legion Post 407.

The club formed March 1, 1987 and officers elected were Commander Ben Weinbeck, Vice Commander Luke Otto, Treasurer Martin Schauer, and Secretary Bill Mahon.

Formed with the intent to meet yearly, the club only actually met two or three times, according to different members.

“I remember meeting once at the Bayrischer Hof in Montrose for dinner, but that was the only time we met,” said member Leonard Matousek.

There were 32 World War II veterans who joined the club. There were more veterans from that era that were members of the American Legion, however, they did not join this club.

The first members to join were Lanny Fasching, Joe Gueningsman, Ralph Littfin, Larry Derosier, Henry Fiecke, Albert Knott, and Leonard “Popeye” Rozeske.

The trophy and bottle of booze, pictured, will be presented to the last surviving member, along with a small amount of money.

“My name is last on the list. That means I have to live the longest,” said club member George “Butch” Lachermeier with a smile.

Interesting facts

• The hand-carved eagle at the top of the trophy was carved by Sue Hart of New Germany.

• The Bottle of “Old Grand Dad” alcohol was donated by Don and Bob Bayerl, owners of the Blue Note at that time.

• The case construction and materials were donated by Harlan Keiser.

• The case design, finish, and hand-made top was donated by Weinbeck.

• The engraved plates were done by club member Linus “Len” Zimmermann and the case was completed July 22, 1987.

• The first member of the Last Man’s Club to die was Larry Derosier June 2, 1989.

• The most recent member of the club to die was Orlando Gebhardt January 20 of this year.

• The only member of the final 15 that lives outside the immediate Winsted area is Richard “Dick” Sterner, who lives in Victoria.

• Two sets of club members are neighbors. John Parten and Leonard Matousek live next to each other and Kenny Norman and Jim Williams live next to each other.

Organization bylaws

Reprinted from the Winsted Journal, March 1987

The name of this organization shall be, “The Last Man’s Club of the Veterans of World War II of Winsted, MN.”

This shall be an exclusive association of like-minded veterans dedicated to the camaraderie of those who shared the particular experiences of the World War II era. For that purpose we have agreed to associate ourselves in a free brotherhood of veterans concerned with each other’s welfare.

And also, as we approach our so-called twilight years, conscious of our mortality, we have by common consent decided to emphasize the vagaries of our life on his earth by organizing this association in the following manner, to wit:

There shall be a commander and a vice commander, who shall also be secretary and treasurer. They shall be elected yearly at a time designated by common consent.

There shall be an initial fee of $5 as membership dues for the purpose of purchasing a bottle of intoxicating liquor, the brand to be so designated by common consent and also the manner in which it is to be displayed. This bottle of liquor shall be encased in a plaque, which plaque shall have the names of all the members of this organization inscribed on either side of said bottle.

The names of the members are to remain on the plaque and as they die a cross is to mark their passing on. This plaque shall be displayed in an appropriate place for public viewing.

The bottle of liquor is to become the sole property of the sole remaining member of this organization and to be used in any manner he sees fit. It is to be hoped, however, that he will drink at least a portion of it in a toast to his comrades who have preceded him.

When once we are fully organized there shall be no longer any turning back or forward. We shall close the membership rolls. No new members. We shall be come a closed society. And as inexorable as the passing of time we shall check off each member as he passes the great divide.

We shall meet once a year at a dinner at a designated time and place to elect yearly officers, to renew old acquaintances and conduct any business pertinent to this organization.

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