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Paynesville Press - August 9, 2006

Legion honors longtime members

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville American Legion Post #271 honored six longtime members last week. Duane Bluhm, Harold Easterday, Clint Hoiseth, and Alice Johnson were honored for being Legion members for 60 years, while Don Anderson and Loren Meyer were honored for being members for 50 years.

Bluhm, Easterday, and Hoiseth, all joined the American Legion in 1946, shortly after World War II, with Johnson joining the Legion sometime before that. Anderson and Meyer both joined the Legion in 1956.

Legion 60 year members Bluhm, a nearly lifelong resident of Paynesville, joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1942 and served in the navy for three years during World War II. (The Coast Guard automatically joins the navy during wartime.)

He served as a baker on the U.S.S. Callaway, a troop transport, and covered 90,000 miles in the South Pacific during the war, including taking part in nine combat landings.

He joined the American Legion with "the first batch that signed up in 1946," he said.

"I think all vets should be a part of a service organization, and that's the one I chose, the American Legion," he added.

Four American Legion members were honored for 60-year memberships last week. They are: (front) Clint Hoiseth, Alice Johnson, and Duane Bluhm; and (back) post commander Larry Alstead, Harold Easterday, and membership chairman Pete Hoppe.

Easterday left Brewster, Minn., after completing high school but before his graduation ceremony, joining the navy in the spring of 1946. He was the youngest of five boys, who all served in the military during World War II. One of his brothers was killed during the landings on Luzon in the Philippines in 1945, and another brother served three years as a tank driver.

Easterday served as a cook on a landing ship dock, also learning to be a tailor onboard. He took his tailoring skills to a couple towns before coming to Paynesville in 1967, operating a department store until 1990.

After 18 months of service, Easterday was discharged in 1946. The entire crew of his ship signed up for the American Legion before being discharged.

Sixty years of Legion membership have come fast, he said. "I believe strongly in it," he added, "and I continue to pay my dues to support it."

Hoiseth, a 1942 PHS grad, served for six months in the infantry and for the rest of his three years in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was trained to navigate B-17 or B-24 bombers, but the war ended before he was ever sent overseas.

He joined the American Legion in Paynesville in 1946. "It was a good veteran's organization. It kind of looked after vets," said Hoiseth. "I thought it was one organization that my father and a lot of uncles joined after World War I."

As the athletics officer for the local Legion post, Hoiseth helped build the baseball and football field, including dual lights, at the old Paynesville High School.

Am. Legion 50-year members Johnson - a native of Duluth who moved to Paynesville in September 2005, now living at Washburne Court - served in the navy during World War II, being stationed on the east coast and booking films.

She joined the navy after teaching school for three years, having graduated from UMD, but following her military service she went to secretarial school and served as a school secretary for several decades.

The American Legion in Duluth would not accept women in 1946, so a women's post - believed to be the only one in the state - was formed. Johnson said her friend Maxine Hansen was the instigator of the post. "She was told that (the men's posts) didn't want (women)," said Johnson. "So we showed them."

Johnson was active in the women's post, serving as commander and as secretary.

She joined the women's post sometime before 1946, though the exact date is unknown due to lack of records. The women's post officially disbanded in 1974. "I'm sorry I burned all those records," Johnson said. "But no one wanted them."

Legion members Don Anderson (front) and Loren Meyer (back) were honored for 50 years of membership last week by the local post.

Her membership was transferred to the Paynesville post in 2005.

Anderson served in the Air Force as a supply officer from 1954-1956, building a hospital in Oklahoma. He joined the American Legion in Aitkin, Minn., in 1956 and transferred his membership to the Paynesville post upon moving to town in 1961.

Meyer served in the army from 1953-1955 as a cryptologist. He served overseas in Tokyo, Japan, during the Korean War.

He joined the American Legion in 1956 in Spring Valley, Minn., and transferred his membership to the Paynesville post in 1961, when he bought a car dealership in town.

"The Legion stands for a lot of things," said Meyer of his 50-year membership. "It does a lot of good things for veterans. It's important that veterans get their benefits."

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