Stenz, Griesell and Smith – The faces behind our name
Stenz-Griesell-Smith American Legion Post 449 was named for these three men…
Lt. Paul Stenz was killed on October 15, 1942, after a routine training flight crash near Chicago airport.
Lt. Robert Griesell was killed on June 21, 1943, in a crash of a training plane near La Junta, Colorado.
Sgt. Arthur Smith was killed in infantry action on May 5, 1944, in Italy.
Our charter was received in early 1946. It listed 39 names of charter members, about 75% being World War II veterans, and the rest being veterans of World War I. The average age of the five WWII vets was 27 and the four WWI vets was probably 48.
It all started at Les’s Tavern on Friday, December 13, 1945, at 8:00 p.m. WWII was over and GIs were streaming home. Two WWI veterans, Carl Isacson and Charles Hazard, thought this would be a great time to start up a Legion post in Elm Grove. George Reinders, a highly successful businessman, donated eight lots for the fledgling post.
Along with the many fundraising efforts started., we found a savings & loan that was willing to sell us a construction loan of $2,500. A Menomonee Falls farmer was willing to sell us a government surplus barracks building (which he intended to use as a chicken coop) for $485. After the rezoning and building committee specifications were worked out, we started building the humble 16 X 48’ clubhouse on June 9, 1947. Now, we needed to increase our membership!
In May 1946, Auxiliary Unit 449 was born. These hard working women not only indirectly enhanced our membership by getting their boy friends and spouses involved in the post, but also, through their innumerable fundraising efforts, expanded the building fund.
We held our first meeting in our new Legion post in April of 1948. The interior was still largely unfinished. Membership, at that point, was 57. On the fourth anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1948, a dedication and memorial service was held at the newly completed home of Stenz-Griesell-Smith Post 449 at 1195 Legion Drive, Elm Grove.
A kitchen and furnace room were added in 1951, again, a nearly 100% “do it yourself” project. Over the next 25 years, there were five more major additions.
On August 6, 1998, the mother of all floods hit 1195 Legion Drive. By September 23rd, everything was removed from the post that was salvageable and was cleaned up and stored in a warehouse. All the wallboard and paneling were removed up to eight feet. The remaining structure was sanitized and brought back to usable condition. In the meantime, meetings were held at Verbricks Inn and at Becker Ritter Funeral Home. Under the direction of Al Kolsch, then commander, Post 449 was operating by November with still a lot of work to do in the Marv Race room.
Between FEMA, the Village of Elm Grove, and our flood insurance, we were able to extend our stay at 1195 Legion Drive until the St. Patrick’s Day party on March 15, 2003. On April 15, 2003, the new post at 3245 N. 124th Street was opened on a limited basis until the remaining renovations were completed. The grand opening/new building dedication was held on September 20, 2003.