This history is re-printed from our 50th Anniversary Book from 1996.
The years were 1945-46. World War II ended and an exodus of Veterans approximately 20,000,000 strong were being discharged from the Armed Forces. This made excellent pickings for VFW membership. Never before had so many been eligible. Veteran Posts were coming up roses all over the country and Lyskawa VFW Post was one of the thousands that sprouted.
Originating on Detroit’s west side, our Post consisting of 66 charter members was officially instituted as the Pvt. John Lyskawa Post #7546 on July 9, 1946. Our meetings were held in Joe Claramunt’s Bar located at 4701 West Warren. In 1948 the Post moved to the Buchanan Café at 4848 Buchanan at 32nd Street. Just a few years later in 1951, we moved again, to larger quarters in Bud Stempien’s Bar at 4636 Michigan Avenue. It was not unusual in those days for a Post to conduct their meetings in the backroom or basement of a bar, the tavern keepers were only to happy to oblige for obvious reasons.
Our Post procured its first real estate property in 1962 located at 4508 32nd Street in Detroit and it became our first Memorial Home. The Post members however did have some foresight, and were already looking ahead to greener pastures, planning even then to move out of the inner city.
Several inquires were made in the ensuing years and in 1965 an area of 13 lots located on Waverly in Dearborn Heights were purchased. Subsequently soil tests were made, architectural plans were drawn up and construction began. Finally on April 27, 1969 our present Memorial Home was completed and dedication ceremonies took place with ribbon cutting by the presiding Mayor John Canfield and Commander Walter Filipowski. One could say that our dream had finally come true.
Over the years our Post has experienced many firsts, initially of course, was our first Commander Elmer Klawuhn a WWII veteran in 1946. Cmdr. Klawuhn passed away in 1968. Our first Post member to pass away was Elwood Ninness on March 9, 1952. The first of our Commander’s to pass away was Stanley Kulpa in 1965. Our first Commander from the Korean conflict was Richard Lyskawa in 1957-58 and our first Vietnam commander was Mel Dompier 1982-83.
Our Post held its first major event in 1949 when our Post received it’s first colors. Mrs. Josephine Lyskawa, the mother of our namesake, presented the colors to Commander Harvey Gribbons. Dinner was served to 600 guests.
Comrade Harvey Gribbons was our first District Commander in 1952 and he was also the first recipient of the Dr. Galanty Award in 1973. Stan Baranowski was our first All State Commander in 1969-70, with several All State Commanders to follow. Mitchell May was the first recipient of the Department Ralph Levan Trophy in 1971 for being an outstanding Service Officer. Bill Zimmer was our first All American Commander in 1979-80 and Elmer Wurster was our first State VFW Commander in 1990-91. Elmer also made All American Commander that year.
Our first Anniversary Dinner Celebration marking 10 years was held on March 2, 1957. Since then our Post has held special celebration every five years to the present celebration of our 50th. Our first Memorial Day Parade was held in 1971.
On November 4, 1986Comrade Art Salesky was our first Commander to pass away while in office, and sadly enough the Commander who took his place Dorman Parson himself passed away while in office in March of 1988. Stan Kobak was our first Commander to be recycled having won All State honors in 1974-75, he returned again for an encore as our Post Commander in 1990-91.
In 1975 the Post received it’s first #1 Award in Hospital work from the Department of Michigan, many awards followed up to the present when the Lyskawa Post again received the #1 award at the Convention in Lansing, June 1995. The Post made it’s first hospital trip to Iron Mountain, Michigan in 1977 and has since visited the Veterans Hospital annually up to the present time.
Our first top poppy seller award with Department recognition went to Chester Koscielniak in 1978. Since then we have received many #1 awards from the state with top awards going to Gerry O’Chel in 1990 and 1991 with Alex Grzybienik to follow in 1992. Our Post Bulletin received its first #1 Award as the State’s top newsletter in 1989-90.
The decade of the 90’s has seen many VFW Post decline in membership and participation, our Post however, has continued to excel in all VFW Programs. The following are some of the highlights of the past few years; A Testimonial Dinner at Crystal Gardens for Elmer Wurster, in April 1991 to commemorate his successful tenure as Department Commander. Also in April of 1991 while on leave from active duty U.S. Army Specialist Gary Stewart became our first Desert Strom member. 1991 also marked the end of our prestigious Dr. Galanty Award. Though well meaning, and certainly well deserved by those members who received it, this award created some controversy from time to time. Commander Stan Kobak and the Executive Board with membership approval decided to discontinue this award.
Dave EnDyke was installed as Commander for 1991-92. In support of our American Flag we were involved in many protests against burning or defacing the flag. Our efforts, however, were in vain for the Bill we wanted to see pass was defeated by Congress.
Commander-in-Chief Jack Carney visited our Post in 1992 and Tom Wayne became our second Commander to be recycled. Elmer Wurster became Editor of the MOV in May of 1992. In August Commander Wayne and 14 delegates participated in the 1992 National Convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Stan Kobak was our top Poppy seller in 1993 and Don Shoff was elected Commander for 1993-94. The National Convention was held in Dallas, Texas. 1993 was also the year a tragedy marred our Memorial Day Ceremonies. While mass was in session, Leonard Budzik who was dressed in full Honor Guard Regalia was standing at ease near the alter at St. Hedwig Cemetery when he collapsed and died of a massive heart attack. Forever, Memorial Day will not just be the day we remember Comrades we have lost, but will be remembered as the day we lost a dear member and friend.
A crucial vote befell on us on Feb. 10, 1994 and the acceptance of a Ladies Auxiliary into our Post was at stake. The Lyskawa Membership voted the ladies down. In May of 1994 Don Shoff was appointed State Hospital Chairman and Ben Benton was appointed to the State MOV Committee. Bill Kulpa was top Poppy seller and Jerry Kantor was elected Commander 1994-95. The National Convention was held in Las Vegas.
During the 1990’s our Hospital team with Chairman Len Piotrowski and Elmer Wurster have taken several top awards. Our Poppy seller continue to excel finishing at the top or very near in the Department. The most recent being Leonard Hejka our 1995 and 1996 top Poppy seller.
The most memorable events of the 1990’s have been our Post’s participation the nationwide 50th Anniversaries commemorations of WWII events. Under the theme “A Grateful Nation Remembers,” our Posts participated in all of the commemorations, starting with a 50th Anniversary Tribute to Pearl Harbor in Dec. of 1991, then a huge celebration commemoration “D” Day in June of 1994 and again for V.J. Day in August of 1995. Our Post’s entertainment committee of Ben Benton, Ed Zelmanski, Bill Kulpa and Len Piotrowski with help from the various Commanders who were in office at the time, put on some of the finest programs nationwide. Nostalgia literally flowed from our Post. We drew capacity crowds and Post survivors from all of the major World War II Campaigns. Veterans from the Marines, the Army, the Air Corp., the Navy and Seabees all participated in the “Last Hurrah” of World War II. This not only earned us a fair share of local TV coverage but also led to us being cited by the VFW National Department for putting on one of the finest “War and Remembrance” programs in the nation.
Ed Gardner was elected Post Commander for 1995-96. In February 1996 Commander-in-Chief Paul Spera visited our Post, and we welcomed him with a warm reception and a special dinner in his honor.
Not one to rest on our laurels, as we are winding down our 50th year, our Post again reached over 100% in membership for 1995-96 and our Post Commander Ed Gardner received the white hat as an All State Commander. Jack Paraventi made All State for his achievement as an outstanding Post Quartermaster, and Dave EnDyke our former Post Commander and now 2nd District Commander made All State Commander at the district level. Our Post “Bulletin” for the 6th consecutive year has taken first place in the Department Publishing Contest that’s to our Editor Ben Benton and his staff of Laura and Bill Kulpa and a little help from Ed Bonk.
And so it has gone through the years, from our humble beginnings with 66 members we have grown to 720 members strong. During the past 50 years we have left on our wake numerous outstanding achievements etched in the annals of the Department of Michigan, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
All of this has been made possible through the efforts of our dedicated Commanders, past and present, and a hard working supportive membership. Our Post practices what it preaches with outstanding work for our community, our youth, Americanism and in our hospital programs. In the truest sense – “We remember the dead by helping the living.” That’s the way it should be – and that’s the way it was – in the years 1946 to the present. Thus the book is now closed for the first 50 years of our Post, in this year of our Lord 1996.