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Northwest Salmon




American Legion Post 40 is debt free


by Amanda Fanger

Memorial gifts given to the Webster American Legion in honor of the same veteran who challenged that club to rid themselves of their financial obligations before his death are the reason the debt has now been erased.

Dileen Ninke’s eyes widened in surprise and tears began to form as a broad smile broke across her face when she heard the news of her late husband’s challenge finally being met.

“It really makes me happy that the goal was fulfilled,” she said. “(Emil) was a proud veteran. He worked hard on the membership and anything they did, he was a part of and he was really proud of that.”

At the beginning of 2015, Emil Ninke, a WWII veteran, raised a challenge to the members of the American Legion Herbert McKennett Post 40: Pay off the club’s outstanding debt of $27,000 before he reached the grave. Though efforts on the club’s part to hack away at the number brought it down to less than $2,500 prior to Emil’s passing in March, it was the financial donations given by his friends and family after his passing that finally eliminated the debt.

The debt was paid off May 1, according to treasurer Tom Sannes. Emil passed away March 12.

“I think Emil was very dedicated and devoted to the principles of the American Legion,” which are service to community, state and nation, Tom said. “It was very important to him to see this debt paid off. He wanted to see the club in a good place.”

Tom shared that Emil had been through times with the club that had been tough – particularly in the early 2000s, when the club nearly shut down.

“It’s come a long ways,” he said.

Harry Knapp, a Legion member who handles the WWII Vet’s Memorial, a plaque that hangs in the Legion Clubroom identifying those who have given to the fundraising project, called Emil “a cornerstone” of the club.

“He had Legion through and through. He was totally supportive of the club. He was very proud of his military service,” Harry said.

Emil grew up on a farm six miles east of Webster. Besides the two years he spent in the service, he was a lifelong resident of the area, working as a farm hand and later as a Northwestern Public Service as a line foreman until his retirement. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1945 during WWII and was stationed in the South Pacific until 1947 when he was honorably discharged.

Dileen remembers the day Emil came home after the club meeting where he had issued the challenge.

“I was surprised when he came home and told me he’d said that to them,” she said. “He would come home and complain (about things in general), he would always express himself to me,” but she hadn’t known him to be one to express himself thus at club meetings.

Laughing at a memory, Harry said, after the initial challenge had been put forth, “He would joke, only as Emil could joke, ‘better hurry up, I’m 90.’”

“He was a dedicated member to both the American Legion and the VFW. Those two clubs took most of his time,” Dileen said. In his spare time, she said he enjoyed gardening and church activities but was also an avid hunter and fisherman. “It seemed like wherever we were, those were the conversations people would approach us on – if he’d been hunting or fishing lately or about the club meetings.”

Current Legion Commander Zack Witte said that, going forward, the club is planning to use additional donations for the purpose of installing a new flag pole on the outside of the Webster Main Street building as well as redo the indoor paneling at the back entryway. When Emil went, it was quietly and peacefully in his home, with Dileen by his side. He was 92.

“We had a good life,” she said. “The hardest part is we’d always talk things over... I just have to keep remembering we had a good life.”

They would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary next month.

“He was trying to exercise more – he would have liked to be here through the summer,” she said, adding that she’ll turn 90 July 13 and she knew he’d wanted to help her celebrate with she and their children who are planning to return for that occasion.

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