They have a strong, binding tie they served their country during World War II.
Veterans who belong to the Minot World War II Last Man's Club, a group organized 30 years ago, will meet Saturday for their annual banquet, meeting and election of officers in the Minot Veterans of Foreign Wars Club. About 30 people are expected to attend.
The Minot club is one of the few operating World War II Last Man's Clubs in North Dakota.
Eloise Ogden/MDN •
Joe Berg, right, displays the Minot World War II Last Man’s Club flag in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Club in Minot. From left are Fred Gruenberg, club president, and Don Wunderlich, secretary-treasurer. Berg is the keeper of the membership nameplate board.
The club's membership has been declining. When the group organized, it had 310 people. As of last week, there were 102 left, said Joe Berg of Minot.
However, Fred Gruenberg, Minot, club president for the past eight years, and Berg said that number may not be exact.
"The ones who are out of state, we're not sure if they're alive or not," Gruenberg said.
Berg takes care of the board with all the nameplates of club members those living and deceased. He's had the board-keeping job "for as long as I can remember," he said. The nameplates are displayed on the board in the downstairs area of the Minot Veterans of Foreign Wars Club.
The nameplates of the living members are on brass nameplates. When a club member dies, Berg removes the individual's brass nameplate. Underneath it is a black nameplate, which he leaves on the board. Berg then mails or gives the brass nameplate to the family of the recently deceased individual, along with a sympathy card.
Members of the club had to be World War II veterans those who served from Dec. 7, 1941, through Sept. 2, 1945.
"Those are the only ones that can belong," Berg said, reading the dates for membership qualifications in the club's charter.
The members were and are from "all over North Dakota, out of state, one guy lived in Winnipeg," Berg said. He said they've even had a member from Switzerland.
"The guy who lived in Switzerland his mother signed him up. She heard about it," Berg said.
It cost $5 for a lifetime membership in the club, Berg said.
"We meet in the spring of the year to set up annual programs which is quite limited now," Gruenberg said. "And then we have a picnic in August, and an annual banquet and meeting in November."
"The dinner is always the first Saturday after Veterans Day," Berg added.
In past years, the group also provided scholarships for immediate family members of club members.
Gruenberg said two women have been especially helpful to the club Donnie Grafsgard and Ursula Wunderlich.
"They always bring in a bunch of goodies for our drawings at the dinner," Gruenberg said. He said his wife, Terry, has assisted him with his president's duties especially during the past two years.
A significant event will take place when the club's membership is down to the last five men.
"These five certified members shall then participate in the spirits and distribute the ashes of this fraternal organization...," Berg read from the club's charter.
Don Wunderlich, Voltaire, secretary-treasurer of the club, is the keeper of the spirits (whiskey). Wunderlich served in the Navy in the Pacific from 1944 to 1946 as a sonarman.
"We took care of things over there and then the war ended," he said.
Berg also served in the Navy. He went into the military in 1943 and served for nearly four years. He was a coxswain on a carrier and served "in every island in the Pacific," he said.
"We probably crossed paths over there," Wunderlich said.
Gruenberg served from December 1941 until getting out in November 1945.
"I was in the U.S. Army Air Force with the Hells Angels B-17 bombers," he said. "My rank was staff sergeant and I was in charge of all the fuel on our base. We had 80 B-17 bombers on that base." He said the base was about 65 miles from London.
"I was there when we dropped the first and the last bomb." he said, adding, "And I came back alive so I'm very grateful."
The Minot World War II Last Man's Club will meet Saturday, probably share some stories, too, as the group continues on.
"It's a bunch of good guys," Gruenberg said.