Standish Legion Post gets old name back

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STANDISH — The American Legion post in Standish has gone back in time with its new name.

After more than 10 years as the Standish Memorial Post 128, the group is returning to an earlier name as the Kenison-Hooper Post 128 in recognition of two veterans from the town.

According to Post Historian Hal Ware, the Standish Legion was founded in 1922 and named for Cpl. Berdan J. Kenison, believed to be the first serviceman from the Standish community to die in World War I.

Another name was added to the post after World War II in honor of Pfc. Stuart W. Hooper, who was killed in Italy in 1944.

“Traditionally, Legion posts across the country — internationally, actually — name their post after the first to fall in battle in World War I and World War II,” Ware said. “That’s not to say that Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and all these other battles we fought are not important — but it’s just been traditional.”

“A lot of us have wanted it for a long time,” added Ware, 85, a former post commander who noted that the post was unanimous in its decision to return to the old name.

Ware said he is one of two current members whose father served in the post after World War I when it was still the Kenison Post.

Paul L’Heureux, the Adjutant for American Legion Department of Maine, helped the Standish Legion in their renaming quest.

“I would guess 75 percent of them are named after a person who died in battle,” L’Heureux estimated referring to posts around the country.

After World War II, the Standish post continued under the Kenison-Hooper name until sometime in the 1980s, when Ware says it became inactive, likely because of a lack of membership at the time.

When the post became active again in 2006, the Kenison-Hooper name somehow fell by the wayside in the effort to get back up and running. Ware speculated that the post could have missed a step in the process, and L’Heureux said that the American Legion’s national organization may have believed it was a new post — rather than a reboot — when issuing the new charter.

The post has since spent more than a decade as the Standish Memorial Post, and returning to its former moniker hasn’t been an easy task.

Ware sent L’Heureux a letter in January asking for help after the national organization initially tuned down Post 128’s request for a charter renewal, citing insufficient information.

Both Ware and L’Heureux say that family members must sign off when a post wants to name itself after a local veteran, but there was a problem: nobody could find relatives of Cpl. Kenison or Pfc. Hooper.

L’Heureux then engaged the American Legion’s national organization to try and fix what he compared to a “paper glitch.”

After conducting a search of Maine Legion and Standish town records, L’Heureux said they were eventually successful in convincing national that relatives of the two fallen veterans couldn’t be found.

“If you got the OK to name it the first times, chances are it didn’t go away,” L’Heureux said, adding that “common-sense prevailed” in the end.

It was a somewhat unique process for L’Heureux, who said the legion’s state organization has helped name posts recently, but couldn’t think of another instance where a post needed assistance to return to a previous name.

As of Monday, he was planning to attend Thursday night’s potluck supper, where state legion officials were slated to present the Standish Post with their new charter recognizing the name change.

“This is a good bunch down there,” L’Heureux said. “They really do a good job.”

Ware said the post is active in the community, with fundraising efforts to support a variety of causes as well as help the post acquire its own space. Post 128 currently uses the Kiwanis Club of Standish for its meetings.

Post 128 Commander Don Roy said that the group has about 70 members — about 20 of them actively show up for meetings.

Roy, 88, said that recruitment of younger veterans has been a challenge.

“We had a couple from Afghanistan — it’s hard to keep those people,” Ware said. “They just move around trying to build their lives. It’s hard to recruit and retain young people.”

“I was like that, I was so busy,” Roy reflected about his younger years.

Roy and Ware are both Korean War veterans.

“I volunteered for Korea to get out of Texas,” joked Roy, who served as an Army combat medic and first moved to Standish in 1953.

“Oh, anybody would do that,” laughed Ware, a former Army infantryman who said he’s lived in the same house in the Sebago Lake Village part of Standish for 80 years.

The American Legion is gearing up for its 100th birthday as an organization in 2019, and L’Heureux indicated that the Standish post’s journey — from inactivity in the 1980s and 1990s to its resurgence in the last decade or so — is not unprecedented.

“At times they close — but this country keeps making veterans, so they seem to come back,” L’Heureux said.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Standish Legion Post Commander Don Roy, left, and Post Historian Hal Ware hold a photo of Pfc. Stuart W. Hooper, believed to be the first Standish resident to die in World War II.

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