Westport American Legion celebrates a century

Post 145 throws itself a party, shares memories

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 8/17/19

Its ranks may have aged some, but the work done by Westport’s American Legion, James Morris Post #145, is as important today as it was a century ago when 15 World War I Westport veterans gathered …

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Westport American Legion celebrates a century

Post 145 throws itself a party, shares memories


Its ranks may have aged some, but the work done by Westport’s American Legion, James Morris Post #145, is as important today as it was a century ago when 15 World War I Westport veterans gathered to establish the post.

So said Francisco Urena, Massachusetts secretary of veterans affairs and a Marine veteran himself.

Mr. Urena was among many who made the trip to White’s of Westport on July 27 for a 100th birthday celebration for Post 145.

Life may move faster today, Mr. Urena said, “but it is places like these ‘clubs’ that can slow things down a little — to provide those strong bonds, provide that sense of having someone to lean upon.”

“It is that person you meet in an American Legion that can be that helping hand when somebody may be at their lowest point,” he said, and that is one difference that this post has made through its long history.

“The same opportunities that the Legion had in 1919,” and the organization it became, continue today, he said.

“It is up to all of us to insure that those opportunities remain for young veterans and their families. Here’s to 100 years more.”

Master of ceremonies (and post vice-commander) Antone Vieira said the occasion was an important one for veterans and their community.

“There are over 900 veterans who presently live in Westport,” he said. “This event was not only recognizing the American Legion's 100th anniversary but it was Westport's special thank you to all Westport veterans who served.”

Mr. Vieira opened the evening by welcoming Albert “Cowboy” Cote to sing the National Anthem. Mr. Cote urged the audience to sing along but not too loud, he joked, so that he could be clearly heard.

State Senator Michael Rodrigues read a proclamation from the Senate and introduced the post’s most long-time member at 49 years, Russell Hart.

“Thank you to the people who have kept the Legion alive and healthy,” Mr. Hart said, “and hopefully it will go on for another 100 years.”

State Rep. Paul Schmid delivered a proclamation from the House and introduced former post commander Lino Rego “who drove from Florida with his wife” for the occasion.

That, Rep. Schmid said, shows the “unwavering commitment” of Westport veterans and of Westport to its veterans. He called the celebration an “opportunity to see a lot of old friends … kind of a once in a lifetime event.”

“Even though I moved, I’m still Post 145,” Mr. Rego said. He said he could not have missed the occasion — “Tony (Vieira) traveled all the way down to my house to invite me. Thank you Tony.”

Bringing greetings from the Board of Selectmen was the board’s chairwoman, Shana Shufelt.

“I am grateful not just because of your military service,” she said. “When I look around this room, I can see so many individuals in this post (who) do so much for the community long after you leave the service. Our community is better because you are in it.”

Ms. Shufelt introduced 93-year-old World War II veteran George Cataldo who wished his fellow veterans the best of health. “Live day by day,” If you have problems, “let them fly over your head. They are going to be gone tomorrow.”

Post Commander Richard Spirlet asked Mr. Vieira, Ed O’Hara and Tom Flynn to step forward. “If it wasn’t for these three guys, you wouldn’t be here this evening,” he told the audience. They have been working diligently for the last six or seven months.

Mr. Spirlet also introduced and presented a Post 145 certificate of appreciation to Navy Admiral (retired), former commander of the US Pacific Fleet, and Westport resident Scott H. Swift.

When he signed up for the Navy (in hopes of someday becoming a commercial airline pilot — which never came to pass, he said), his father, a veteran of three wars, gave him a bit of advice.

“The most important thing you will take with you from your service is the relationships that you build … with those with whom you serve.”

He noted that while only one half of one percent of US citizens serve in the military today, seven percent have served at some point.

That is why this post is so important — “the people I am looking at tonight.” Continue to tell the history of what the service meant, Admiral Swift told the veterans.

Looking around the room, Mr. Vieira said that Westport is presently home to over 900 veterans. And he mentioned a few in the audience, among them John Miller who went on to play an instrumental role in the Apollo 11 mission that out the first man on the moon 50 years ago.

And he introduced Westport veteran and historian Claude Ledoux “who has probably held every office iin town — like Russ Hart.”

Mr. Ledoux told of deceased veteran and Bronze Star recipient Edgar N. Huard who was terribly wounded in the late days of World War II.

Despite losing his right arm and left leg, Mr. Huard returned home and contributed to Westport for decades to come until his death at age 72.

Among other things, he served as the town’s veterans’ agent.

Mr. Ledoux said that when he served on the board of selectmen, the board met in the same upstairs room that it meets in today, with no handicapped access.

I remember “Edgar clumping up the stairs to give his veterans report faithfully. The sound of those steps always choked me me up — still do.”

“Edgar was a perfect living Westport example of those who served.”

Westport resident and retired Army Colonel Noelle Briand was called upon to introduce guest speaker


Describing herself as a “third generation American and third generation veteran,” she said she is also a member of Post 145 and recalled getting a few surprised looks from members who weren’t used to seeing a woman member walk through the doors.

“Keep it going for the next generation,” she urged her fellow post members.

Of Mr. Erena, she said, “This guy is what we would call a rock star.”

Native of the Dominican Republic, tank commander, security officer for diplomats, veteran of service in western Iraq “wounded but never took a knee,” she said.

Now, as Massachusetts secretary of veterans affairs, he’s the person veterans turn to for all manner of help, she said.

“I’m a b ig fan of the American Legion,” Mr. Urena said. “Not only am I a member but we also consider them a partner” in getting opportunities and benefits to veterans who need them.

“Our benefits should not remain a best-kept secret.” In Massachusetts, “It is not for a lack of resources that veterans have challenges.” The real hurdle is connecting them to the resources available and with that the Legion helps in vital ways.

“Groups like the Legion become our voice, they become our pockets of opportunity.”

Legion turns 100

The American Legion turns 100 years old this year, as does Westport’s American Legion Post #145. On March 15, 1919, a group of American Officers Club members met in Paris, France. Two days later, March 17, 1919, 463 veterans registered for a caucus at Cirque de Paris, France. Records show that most believe over 1,000 actually attended. The first four committees of the American Legion were Convention, Permanent Organization, Constitution, and Name. Westport’s American Legion James Morris Post #145 was formed with 15 veterans of World Ward 1 on July 31, 1919. The American Legion, operating out of temporary headquarters at 19 West 44th Street in New York, New York on July 31, 1919, granted a charter for a “Westport Post No. 145, State of Massachusetts.” The 15 Westport veterans were: Philip C. Sherman, Oliver C. Brightman, George E. Chase, Harry L. Reed, Ernest F. Pettey, Arthur L. Lawton, George F. Wood, Edward W. Burt, Henry A. Tripp, Elmer C. Crapo, Stephen W. Shepardson, John L. Duffany, George Shaleigh, William MacIntyre, and Clifford H. Pettey.

On September 8, 1919, the nationally chartered Westport American Legion Post #145 of the State of Massachusetts met in Westport’s Alumni Hall and elected their first slate of officers. Commander, Dr. E.W. Burt, Vice Commander, George Chase, Adjutant and Finance Officer, Andrew Sherman, Historian and Chaplain, Arthur Lawton, Executive Committeemen, Walter Burt, Earl H. Wood, and Edson L. Sanford.

Presently Post #145 has 97 members.

The Post name was officially changed to James Morris Post #145 on November 25, 1931, in memory of James Morris, a Westport resident who was killed in action in World War I on August 10, 1918.

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