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Thanks to loan, VFW will stay
North St. Paul’s Arthur O. Haukland Veterans of Foreign War Post No. 1350 is here to stay.
In an unexpected turn of events, an individual stepped up to offer the post a sizeable loan that will keep the hall open for the foreseeable future.
In early March, Post 1350, located at 2483 E. Seventh Ave. in downtown North St. Paul, announced plans to sell the building due to unmanageable maintenance costs and dwindling membership.
At the time, Post Commander Bill Jessen believed the organization could continue without a VFW-owned building, holding meetings instead at a church or other community space.
However, Jessen explained that thanks to a low-interest loan from Ron Harmon of Harmon Air, Inc. in Oakdale, the post will be able to refinance the building’s loan and remain in the city.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but it’s a step in the right direction. We still have some problems to work out, but it’s very helpful,” Jessen said.
Harmon, an Oakdale resident since 1973, is not a member of the VFW, but he has been involved with the North St. Paul post as a firearms safety instructor for 15 years. He says his motivation comes from a sense of duty to help those who served in the military.
“I wasn’t in the Army, but it’s been my policy for many years that I fix veterans’ furnaces for free. I felt that this loan was the least I could do for the VFW.”
Seeing the possibilities
“I’ve been doing heating on the building for a long time. I know the place; I know the people,” Harmon added.
Harmon said another factor in his decision to help the post was the vast business potential of the building.
“There’s nowhere else in town to go to teach that (firearms safety class),” Harmon explained. “I think there’s potential at the building that hasn’t been utilized. With the right guidance, it could be a great and profitable business.”
North St. Paul City Council member Scott Thorsen said he was happy to learn the post would be staying in its downtown building.
“It was ... disappointing to everyone that they were going to be closing down,” Thorsen said.
Mirroring a national trend
On Oct. 10, 1934, the Arthur O. Haukland Post 1350 was chartered by 31 area veterans and has remained an active organization in the community for almost 80 years.
The post’s namesake was hit by shrapnel on Oct. 4, 1918, on the Champagne Front in France. Haukland’s body was returned to North St. Paul in 1921 and is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Mahtomedi. He was 29.
Veterans from World War I, World War II and the Korean War joined the North St. Paul VFW post in large numbers in the middle of the last century. Back then the VFW hall was a popular gathering spot for veterans and their wives, many of whom were active in the ladies auxiliary.
Things began to change when soldiers returned home from the Vietnam War. They were less inclined to join the service organizations, even one whose mission was to help veterans deal with their wartime experiences.
Like VFW posts across the country, North St. Paul’s membership slowly declined. The drop has been pronounced in recent years with the passing of so many World War II and Korean War vets.
At the same time, few veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan wars have shown an interest in joining their local VFW posts.
To learn more about VFW Post 1350 in North St. Paul, visit www.vfw1350.org.
Johanna Holub can be reached at email@example.com or 651-748-7814.