ST. CLAIR SHORES — It began in a garage on Aug. 21, 1934.
Founding members Bill Randall, Joe Dendoven, Leo Delo and Charlie Pasters recruited 57 members and filed for a charter from the VFW to start a post in St. Clair Shores. And when a charter member died a year later, the post was given its name: the Cpl. Walter F. Bruce VFW Post 1146.
Now, the largest VFW post in Michigan is celebrating its 80th anniversary.
Tim Litz, commander of the VFW Bruce Post 1146, called 80 years a “huge milestone.”
“If they could see us now, I’m sure they’d be proud that we survived,” he said.
The post is a 501(c)19 member-supported organization.
“It takes all our members to support all our functions to keep our post strong, and this is what has happened for 80 years,” he said.
Along with being Michigan’s biggest, the post is the 18th largest nationwide with about 1,400 members, plus a Ladies Auxiliary, Men’s Auxiliary and a Dad’s Club that runs Bingo on Monday nights. The post is very involved in the community, sponsoring a Boy Scout troop, Cub Scout pack and a Sea Scout ship.
“We are probably an institution here in St. Clair Shores; everyone knows the Bruce Post,” Litz said.
With its bar and event facilities, waterfront gazebo, and outdoor pavilion, the post puts on fish fries open to the public during the Lenten season, karaoke and car shows on Friday nights, Veterans Day ceremonies, Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans parties, and Memorial Day celebrations, along with participating in the St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade.
Litz, a member of the VFW since 1966 and a member of the Bruce Post since 1981, said the post still has members that served in World War II, but the majority are veterans of Vietnam.
“We are recruiting some younger members, but it seems like things have changed where, with this all-volunteer Army, a lot of the newer guys aren’t really interested at this time, especially when they go over for two, three, four tours,” he said. “They’re trying to keep their jobs and support their families.”
But while the younger generation may not make membership a priority, Litz said it’s an important resource for veterans to learn about benefits they’re entitled to.
“We just try to help the veterans to get what they need because a lot of them don’t know what they’re entitled to,” he said.
The post first held its charter meetings in Lakeview High School and then acquired a dozen pieces of property near Manhattan and Harper Avenue. With the sale of those lots and some additional money, the post was able to purchase its current location; a post home was constructed in 1956 and opened in 1957.
Dennis Houser said he’s proud to be a member of the post and is always encouraging of those who want to get involved.
“I think it’s a great thing that they’ve been here so long and we’re trying to do things all the time,” Houser said.
He joined the VFW about eight years ago when the Disabled American Veterans group he was a part of began using the hall for its meetings.
“It’s just a proud thing to be here,” he said. “It’s just getting other people involved; we’re always trying to help somebody or find how we can help somebody.
City Council was scheduled to award a proclamation to the post in honor of its 80th anniversary at its Aug. 18 meeting, after the Sentinel went to press.
“I’m proud to be the commander at this time,” Litz said. “A lot of the veteran organizations, these days, we’re all struggling to keep going. That’s why it’s important for the members to support their post when we have events to keep us going.”
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