By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Eight surviving members of Winsted’s Last Man’s Club have been chosen as grand marshals for the Winsted Summer Festival parade, to take place Sunday, Aug 9 at 1 p.m.
There were a total of 32 World War II veterans who joined the club after it was formed March 1, 1987. All were members of the Martin Krueger American Legion Post 407 in Winsted.
Not all of the Legion Post 407 World War II veterans joined the club.
Club member Ben Weinbeck was commander of the Legion at the time, and the group agrees he was the founder of the Last Man’s Club.
None of the surviving veterans could remember how or why the club came about.
“It probably happened after a few of the World War II members started passing away,” club member Dick Genty said.
“So, we said, ‘Let’s get all of the WW II guys together and have a little club, and see who is still left after all is said and done,’” Genty said.
Everybody put in $5 for the purpose of buying a bottle of intoxicating liquor.
However, the money remained in the club treasury because a bottle of “Old Grand Dad” alcohol was donated by Don and Bob Bayerl, owners of the Blue Note at the time.
The last surviving member of these eight good men will receive the bottle of “Old Grand Dad” that has been displayed at the Legion for more than 20 years.
According to the bylaws of the club, “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 hoped, however, that he (last man) will drink at least a portion of it in a toast to his comrades who have preceded him.”
The alcohol is displayed in a case at the Legion designed and finished with a handmade top by Weinbeck.
The materials and construction of the case were donated by Harlan Kieser.
A plate with members names engraved on it was donated by club member Linus “Len” Zimmerman. The case was completed July 22, 1987.
As each member departs the club, an asterisk is put in front of his name and the date of his death is carved at the end.
The Last Man’s Club deceased members, as listed on the plaque, are:
• William Mahon,
• Martin Schauer,
• Luke Otto, 6/23/05
• Albert Knott, 9/27/2002
• Ralph Littfin, 5/19/98
• Lanny Fasching,
• Joseph Gueningsman,
• Henry Fiecke, 6/10/2000
• Larry Derosier, 6/2/89
• Louis Mohrbacker,
• Art Strauss, 7/3/2002,
• Robert Kosek 5/4/91,
• Harold Lenz, 6/2/93
• Len Zimmerman,
• Orlando Gebhardt,
• Alie Lachermeier, 1/6/96,
• Ray Neumann, 6/11/98
• Kenneth Norman,
•Calvin Deidrick, 11/20/08
• John Parten, 8/30/05
• Clarence Rademacher,
• James William, 4/26/06
• Eugene Kohler, 1/10/94.
The first member of the Last Man’s Club to die was Larry Derosier, June 2, 1989.
The most recent was Calvin Deidrick.
“They are one hell of a bunch of guys,” club member Leonard “Popeye” Rozeske said.
“You will never find another town like Winsted, with good friends, people that will back you up,” Rozeske said.
The following is a very brief summary of each surviving member’s history:
Richard “Dick” Genty, 82, served in the Navy until the war ended a total of 18 months. He served six months at Pearl Harbor, and the rest of his time was at a medical supply depot in Idaho.
After the war, he took two years of pre-law classes at the University of St. Thomas, and then another four years at St. Paul College of Law.
Genty served as Winsted’s attorney from 1960 until 1993, and was also the seven-county First Judicial District’s chief public defender.
He is retired and resides in Winsted.
Harold Guggemos, 83, was a radio operator in Europe and also spent time in Japan for occupational duty. Guggemos was in the 97th Division 387th Regiment of HQ & HQ Company. He was in the service for just under three years.
He attended the University of Minnesota for one year before going to work doing floor covering, decorating, and tiling work. He along with his brother Art, owned Guggemos Brothers, a decorating business for many years. Guggemos also was a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service for 24 years.
He retired in 1991, and lives in Winsted.
Marvin Hirsch, 80, served as an honor guard for one of the most respected WW II battle field writers Ernie Pyle. Hirsch was in the 583rd QM Graves Registration Company in Okinawa. “It was stew and rice three times a day for six months straight,” he said. “I haven’t had stew now for 50 years,” he said in an interview in 2004.
After returning home, Hirsch operated a clothing store for many years in addition to owning other properties.
He currently lives in Franklin, MN.
George “Butch” Lachermeier
George “Butch” Lachermeier, 93, began his Army duty March 6, 1946. He spent the next three-and-a-half years in the service.
Lachermeier was an automobile serviceman quartermaster and served in Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
Before being drafted, Lachermeier worked on a farm for several years, as a mechanic for Henry Bayerl, and also as a car salesman for Henry Prehn. In 1950 he began farming, and he continued to do so until 1997.
He currently lives in Winsted.
Leonard Matousek, 92, served in the Army’s European theater of operation during WW II. He spent about two years overseas, and four years total in the service.
Matousek came back to the family farm in Rich Valley Township and farmed until 1972. He worked at Millerbernd Manufacturing for seven years, until he retired. Matousek lives in Winsted.
Leonard “Popeye” Rozeske, 82, was drafted in 1944. Rozeske went overseas to the island of Guam, where he was a medical technician for two years. He was discharged as a corporal in 1947.
After leaving the service, Rozeske worked as a road contractor until 1949. He also worked at Pure Milk in Winsted, worked parttime for the railroad, farmed for 45 years, and worked at Lester Buildings in Lester Prairie. He has also sold feed.
In 1997, Rozeske moved from the farm to Northgate in Winsted.
Richard J. “Dick” Sterner, 82, enlisted in the Navy November 1943.
He served aboard the USS Tulagi CVE-72 in the Pacific and saw action while at sea during the period of Dec. 21, 1943 to May 8, 1945.
Memorable experiences include Kerama-Retto and the Okinawa storm, and Tokyo Bay.
He has received numerous awards and medals including the Purple Heart. He was discharged Aug. 15, 1946.
Sterner lives in Victoria.
At the time this article was written, Sterner was recovering from surgery at Methodist Hospital.
Ben Weinbeck, 85, served in the Army Air Corps as a gunner. His main role was taking care of weapons and cleaning them. Weinbeck had 42 missions and served in Europe the whole time he was overseas.
After the war, for several years, Weinbeck sold textiles on the east coast before returning to Winsted. Weinbeck served as Winsted’s mayor for several years and was instrumental in establishing Winsted’s sewer system.
Weinbeck is a resident at St. Mary’s Care Center in Winsted.