GENOA – The Genoa Veterans Home hosted the celebration of the 100-year anniversary of Post 337 of the American Legion on Saturday in Genoa.
The celebration’s attendees mainly consisted of DeKalb County American Legion members and their families. Although this provided a familiar atmosphere for conversation, Post 337’s Commander Ray Gentilcore said that they had prepared for more people.
“Just imagine what it was like a hundred years ago,” he said. “You had a lot of people involved. But as time goes on, unfortunately people pass, and that’s not bringing people in anymore. We’ve got the families, sure, but we expected more. But that’s part of life.”
Gentilcore spoke about the benefits the American Legion brings to the community, such as hosting Tuesday night Bingo and to provide scholarships to high school students.
“We support other organizations, and we support the community out here, too,” he said.
Another attendee of the American Legion’s 100-year celebration was Janet Bacon, the president of American Legion Auxiliary Post 337. Bacon was attending the party with family and friends and said she was happy to provide some history and context for the event.
“Bayard Brown is the original founding member,” Bacon said, pointing to the back wall where a grayscale photograph of Brown hangs. “Post 337’s official birthday is in December, but with all the holidays coming up, we decided to celebrate it today. The American Legion just turned 100, and the American Legion Auxiliary turns 100 tomorrow.
“So it’s all kind of coming together right now.”
Dinner for the Saturday evening event included Subway sandwiches, chips, drinks and cake. Afterward, a handmade red and white afghan was delivered to the night’s winning raffle ticket. It turned out that ticket belonged to the Dreska family.
Genoa-Kingston High School Junior James Dreska was dressed in his great-grandfather’s original World War I uniform. That included the coat, undershirt and dog tags, all more than a century old. James was sitting alongside his father, Mike Dreska.
“Between World War I reenactments and World War II, he just loves this stuff. We hate to see it go to the wayside, get forgotten,” Mike Dreska said. “We’re restoring a military truck at home, too. The 100-year anniversary is a neat thing – we thought we’d dress up and come to it.”
James agreed with his father and later said the social aspects of the event had appealed to him.
“I like talking with the veterans,” James said. “Mingling, you know?”
Not every party attendee was directly involved with Genoa, or Post 337. Mary Brubach and her husband, Kevin, are both a part of Belvidere’s American Legion Post 77. However, the couple said they still were happy to show up and celebrate their neighbor post’s 100th anniversary.
“They know we come down. There are family ties,” Mary Brubach said. “I do meat raffles and fish fries with these guys. We say we cheat on our post.”
The night’s music was provided by an attendee not from Genoa. Sgt. Brendan Osweiler of the 144th Army Band from Chicago played both sheet music and took requests on the piano for the evening.
“We’re doing several missions in the Chicago area, concerts and performances over the Veterans Day weekend,” Osweiler said.
Members of the Post said they enjoyed his performance.
“He’s awesome,” Gentilcore said. “We’re lucky to have him tonight.”