In Lake Elmo, a final toast to war buddies

A “last man standing” club in Lake Elmo has dissolved. The ravages of time have not allowed the World War II vets to wait until there was only one left to toast the others.

The Pioneer Press’ Bob Shaw writes that although the 53 members of the Kilroy Last Man Standing Club are “mostly gone,” the five remaining members voted last night to end it.

When they bought the bottle of wine in 1954, they imagined the final two would one day toast the others. But it didn’t work out that way.

“We never thought about getting old and shaky,” George Siegfried of Bayport said. “After 75, you don’t care about anything, just getting up in the morning.”

They began the formal meeting with a memorial service and a reading of the names of the deceased. It was a long list.

For each name, Peltier was supposed to put a candle into a rack, but he couldn’t keep up. “I am running out of candles,” he said.

Arndt was in a wheelchair, and his son Bob Arndt of Oakdale popped an occasional french fry into his dad’s mouth. The son voted on behalf of his ailing father, but not before saying good-bye.

“I can’t tell you how much getting together has meant to my dad,” he said, his voice cracking. “We will miss all you great people. But eventually we have to say enough is enough.”

Brookman called for the vote. It was unanimous.

Then everyone looked at the bottle of wine. For 60 years, it had been brought to every meeting, a screw-top bottle of Meier’s Isle of St. George Sauterne, produced in Ohio. It had been kept in a safe deposit box.

Those who could lift the wine glass — one couldn’t — reported the wine wasn’t “too bad.”

From the archive: The last men of Luverne.