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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Recalling veterans of 'Last Man Club'

By Barry Schrader.................................November 10, 2009

With tomorrow being Veterans Day, I thought it appropriate to share this story as reported in the Daily Chronicle over a 50-year period.
Back in 1940, some 35 veterans of World War I who all belonged to American Legion Post 66 in DeKalb – many also former members of the Legion’s drum and bugle corps – decided to form a “Last Man Club.” The purpose was to meet annually until there was only one man left alive.
The formal name of the organization was “La Societe des Combattants Qui Finera La Mort du Dernier Homme.” They adopted the French name since most of the vets served there during the war, but it boils down in plain English to “Last Man Club.” Its first president was Maynard Ebbesen, the youngest of the 35, born in 1902, but not the last man to survive in the club.

At their yearly socials, they would drape a table in black with a white flower honoring each man who died during the past 12 months. The attendees always drank a toast to their departed comrades. They adopted a bugle as the club’s symbol, and it was displayed on a pedestal with a blue ribbon at members’ funerals over the years.
The most talked about club keepsake was a bottle of French cognac, which was kept sealed and meant to be opened and a memorial toast offered by the man who outlived all his fellow veterans. That turned out to be Hollis “Roy” Miller, who made that lonely toast in 1984, according to a Chronicle story.

The handmade gavel used by the Last Man Club and these wooden disks with numbers imbedded in them are now archived in the Joiner History Room. The disks went with the small flags on the tables as they met each year. Orginally there were 35

Roy and Ruth Miller are pictured on their 74th wedding anniversary, the same year he died.

Miller enlisted in World War I at DeKalb’s recruitment center March 24, 1917, and served in the U.S. Infantry, seeing action in France and Luxembourg. He returned stateside on the U.S.S. Chesapeake in May 1919, being discharged from Camp Grant in Rockford in June 1919. He married Ruth Wangler in DeKalb in August 1917, and they had one son and two daughters. Miller was a DeKalb firefighter, rising to the rank of captain during a 20-year career that ended in 1958, later working for Skorberg’s Furniture Store and also serving as a city alderman.
Miller died in November 1991 at the age of 93 and is buried at Fairview Cemetery.
Their late grandson Pat’s wife, Pam Brockhaus, still resides in DeKalb. When I called her home number to inquire about the status of the bottle of cognac, Pam told me the bottle, unfortunately, had been broken by accident years after Miller’s death. But she still has a diary with entries about World War I written by some local veterans in the club. Hopefully that will end up at the Joiner History Room.

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barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115