Local veterans resuscitate Spencer Legion charter
By Kris Leonhardt
As war veterans returned from World War I, many searched for ways to continue a life of service. Not quite knowing the path back to a life of normalcy, they looked for ways to move on in service and commitment.
When the American Legion was chartered by Congress in September 1919, the organization grew rapidly in charity and influence as posts appeared across the country.
At that time membership was only open to World War I veterans but has since expanded to include members of all armed forces branches.
Lee F. Pickett
Lee Francis Pickett was born and raised in Spencer and later moved to Oshkosh to obtain his college education.
Just weeks before receiving his degree, Pickett was ordered to report for service in World War I. Lt. Pickett then sailed for France, where he was shot in the leg but continued to lead his men.
After recovering, Pickett was offered a noncombat job, which he refused. He returned to the front and was killed just five days later.
The beginning of the post
In the early 1920s, 15 World War I veterans gathered together for the purpose of forming an American Legion in Spencer. The group was chartered as the Lee F. Pickett Post No. 298 in the state of Wisconsin as a nod to the local hero that had once called the village home.
The post struggled to find its direction at first but later found purpose and grew. Post 298 created convocation where veterans could assist one another and the community.
The Lee F. Pickett Post thrived for multiple decades before a severe decline in membership caused it to lose its charter.
The Lee F. Pickett Post reborn
In the fall of 2015, two Spencer veterans began work to bring the Lee F. Pickett Post back to fruition.
“There was a lot of feedback that I received about this new (veteran’s) memorial in town that the city put up,” said Army veteran Dan Stoiber. “‘Why don’t we have a Spencer Legion?’ So we revitalized it to Lee F. Pickett, the original (Legion post) name. He was a war hero.”
Stoiber and Marine Corps veteran Scott Voda obtained their temporary charter and set to work on organizing members.
“We had to have minimum of 17 members,” said Voda. “Those are members that had never belonged to a Legion before. They had to be ‘green’ members.”
The pair was successful, and last month the group received its permanent charter and has begun making plans for the future.
“We are community oriented,” said Stoiber. “Next year we are going to be helping with the Spencer Heritage Days. On Veterans Day we plan on going to the Spencer school. We do a lot of brat fries.”
In addition, the group intends to purchase items needed to conduct military rites at local funerals.
“We also plan on helping out vets that are hospitalized,” added Voda.
The Spencer Legion post meets every third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Spencer Village Hall. Those interesting in joining or seeking more information should call Scott Voda at 715-507-0392 or Dan Stoiber at 715-507-0254.