VFW 90 years: a new name

By Kris Leonhardt

Continued from previous week

In the early years of the organization, Pete Engwall served as Commanding Officer of “John Buckley Post 2534” in Wisconsin Rapids.

In the mid-1930s, the post held its meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month at the “Wood County Realty” hall, sometimes along with their sister organization, the Women’s Auxiliary.

The group sponsored a weekly radio show on WLBL, Stevens Point, jointly sponsored by the Marshfield, Stevens Point, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids stations.


The 1940s saw the group organize Poppy Sales for people with disabilities, a picnic held at Lake Wazeecha hosting 1,500 guests, a carnival, and a “Speak Up for Democracy” program.

The John Buckley Post, in conjunction with the American Legion Post, then created a series of radio shows called “Fellow Americans” which aired on the WFHR. The program featured civic, industrial, and business leaders from the community and was designed to support the nation’s war effort.

At the post meeting of July 3, 1946, the organization adopted the name Buckley-Baldwin, in recognition of Victor F. Baldwin, who was killed in action in World War II in November 1944.

Baldwin was the son of a former commander, Louis Baldwin, and was one of the first men serving in World War II to serve in the post.

Baldwin volunteered for service after graduating from Lincoln High School and working for the Consolidated Light & Power Company for a short time.

That same year, the post instituted a “March forward! campaign. Their membership grew from 275 to 600, earning them a state plaque for the fastest growing.

In August, the post acquired 11 Wood County lots between 19and and 20and Avenue Sud, in order to build a pavilion.

The building campaign was set up as an investment, rather than a giving campaign, with members encouraged to invest in $20 increments “in a 6% loan repayable in or before six years.”

In February 1948, the post acquired the Charles E. Gibson property at 1011 West Grand Avenue, as a new site for their future clubhouse, as well as a youth center.

The property was accompanied by a two-story frame house, which was to serve as a temporary headquarters.

In a statement from the Post, the group said, “Buckley-Baldwin Post is especially indebted to Charles E. Gibson, who gave our organization the first chance to purchase the favorable location. Mr. Gibson was prompted by the consideration that his father, James D. Gibson, was one of the last surviving Civil War veterans of Wisconsin Rapids, and his sons, George J. and Harry W. Gibson, are all two of the world war veterans. I. He wanted the old farmhouse that sent three men to the great wars to continue to be associated with veterans.

Continued next week

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