Korean MemorialKorean War and Korean Service Veterans, Chapter 169


 By Tom J Thiel, President, 2008-2012 *


On Friday June 17, 1998, more than forty enthusiastic Lake County Korean War Veterans met at the Leesburg Senior Center and unanimously endorsed organizing a local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA). Joe Turner provided the initiative of inviting Korean Vets to the meeting by placing notices in the local media.

An Organizing Committee (OC) of nine veterans was elected to carry out the organizing and affiliation work; chaired by Joe Turner, it also consisted of: Nick Ortiz, Martin “Jackie” Gleason, Jack Forton, Pete Fargnoli, Stephen LeBoutillier, Joe Madeline, Bill Jones, and Willie Fredette.

They decided the membership would meet every 4th Wednesday of the month at 2:00 p.m., also at the Leesburg Senior Center. The OC drafted a document entitled "Principles of Organization" defining the scope of the organization, and developed a member questionnaire. They also decided to name the organization “The Korean War Veterans Association of Lake County.” (link to 6/17/ minutes)

At a June 23, 1998, OC meeting, Joe Turner informed the group that due to personal and family problems he would not be able to continue as Chairman; Nick Ortiz was elected to replace Joe, who agreed to remain as Vice-Chairman.

At the July 13, 1998, meeting the OC became the “Executive Committee,” (EC). They discussed several matters, including: permanent type name tags, establishing dues at $10.00 for members and $8.00 for Associate Members, and making certain media persons Honorary Members and presenting them with certificates. The Villages Veterans Memorial was first mentioned.

Joe Turner and Jackie Gleason were named Co-Founders.

Although a July 23 report stated that the fledgling organization had 50 members, and that there was a potential for 70 members by Christmas, an August 18 Official Membership list (link) only had 23 names listed. Yet the Sept 9 minutes of the EC said that there were 36 official members and the Sept 23 Member Meeting had “about 50 attendants.”

In the fall of 1998. Joe Madaline, James Pratt, Keith Lucas, John Borst, and Isaiah Hatcher formed the organization’s first Honor Guard.

On October 28, 1998, the KWVA of Lake County officially became the Korean War Veterans Association of Lake County, Chapter 169. Its Charter was adopted with a great sense of satisfaction for having become part of the national family of Korean War veterans across the country. The OC was formally dissolved, and the first Board of Directors was elected as follows: Nick Ortiz - President; Steve LeBoutillier - 1st Vice-President; Joe Madeline - 2nd Vice-President; Bill Jones - Treasurer; Mary Lum - Secretary, and Bob Caldwell, Ed Fenton, Keith Lucas, and Bob Lee, Directors-at-Large. The new BOD was sworn in immediately.

By Nov. 25, 1998, the new Chapter had 69 members and listed 66 potential additional members.

At its December meeting, the Board accepted with deep regret the resignation of President Ortiz, acknowledging the excellent work he had done to help establish the Chapter.

In December 1998, fifty-eight members and spouses attended the first ever Chapter 169 Christmas party at Katie Belle’s Dinning and Dancing Hall at the Villages’ Town Square in Lady Lake. Thus the tradition of a Christmas party was begun and continues to this date.

1999 to 2006

Early 1999 saw Joe Madeline as President, Jackie Gleason as Vice President, Mary Lum Secretary and Bill Jones as Treasurer; BoD members were Ed Fenton, Bob Lee, and Keith Lucas; Pete Fargoli Sgt at Arms, and Bob Caldwell Chaplain. Bill Taylor was was working with the Bylaws, and Carol Becker handled shirts, caps and pins. Joe Madeline, with the aid of Bill Taylor and a lawyer in Leesburg, completed efforts to incorporate Chapter 169 as a 501(c)19 nonprofit veterans corporation. We were one of the first chapters to so incorporate.

In January, paid membership was reported as 30. In the spring, we held our first Chapter picnic at Hickory Point Park. These are family gathering and fun times getting together, and likewise continue to the present.

The first All-Veterans Car show was held on Veterans Day at the Citrus Tower in Clermont. It was directed by Joe Madeline and sponsored by Chapter #169 for several years. All receipts from the car show went to the scholarship fund for students attending Lake-Sumter Community College.

As time went on we raised money for numerous worthwhile causes by manning tables in front of Publix and other stores accepting donations from the store’s customers. The teal-colored Korean War Poppies (AKA Blue Daisies) were used to help inform the public about Korean War facts.

In May 2000, Ron Regan became the Chapter’s Veterans Service Officer and began writing a Chapter Newsletter “Skoshi News.” Also more prominent in the records is the Villages Veterans Memorial park and a new program Harold Sievers was instrumental in called “Adopt a Kid/Adopt a Vet.

And in 2000, our members from southern Lake County spun-off their own South Lake County Chapter #188.

January 2001 saw Jackie Gleason as President, Harold Sievers as Vice President, Marvin Jackson as Treasurer, and Mary Lum as Secretary. Directors were Brooks Guseman, Bill Taylor and Paul Russell. Membership numbers seemed to be completely lacking from all reports during the past couple of years, however, a 3/12/2001 report for 2001 shows 26 paying members, with two of those paid by the Chapter. Yet on 3/25 President Gleason reported that he had a new roster and we have 37 National members now.

January 2002 saw the same officers as above with the exception that Romeo Callouette was the new Treasurer, and Bill Taylor became the newly created 2nd VP. Ron Regan moved to the BOD to replace Taylor. On Feb. 13, the Secretary reported about 68 paid members.

January 2003 saw Harold Sievers as President, with Bill Taylor, and Paul Russell as 1st, and 2nd VP, respectively, Secretary Mary Lum, and Treasurer. Rod Layer reinitiated a Chapter Newsletter. There was mention that we would need to send to 75 members, but no report on membership itself. The Chapter lost QM Ray Wilkinson.

In 2004, Harold Sievers returned as President, John Yohn and Bill Taylor were Vice Presidents, Mary Lum again was Secretary and Romeo Cailouette was Treasurer.

During the previous two years there had been extensive discussions of the role of the National KWVA, with the Chapter going so far as to consider revising its Bylaws to reflect the Chapter’s concern. However, by May 2004, the decision was made to not make these changes because of changes in National KWVA leadership. Charles Marcelle passed away in 2004.

Our leadership in 2005 consisted of John Yohn as President, Charlie White and Paul Russell as VP, Secretary Mary Lum, and Treasurer Tom Gavura.

Mary Lum departed for Texas in June and was replaced by Bill Taylor; Mary was named Secretary Emeritus with continuing honorary membership. Romeo Cailouette passed away.

January 2006 saw Martin “Jackie” Gleason again as President, Charles White and Paul Russell as Vice Presidents, William Taylor as Secretary and Tom Gavura as Treasurer. Members of the Board included Art Canale and Bob McGinty.

We paid the Department of Florida assessment for 40 members in June. In August 2006, Tom Thiel became Secretary/Treasurer replacing Bill Taylor and Tom Gavura, respectively. John B. McBroom of the Villages became a new member in September.

In November Russell and Thiel represented the Chapter at Lake-Sumter College’s Veterans Day celebration and the honor guard appeared at The Villages on November 11 as well as at Coachwood Colony on Saturday, December 16.

Joseph J Gruber and Warren J Sell joined at our November meeting. Dir. Canale reported on effects #169’s Color Guard appearance with the Village’s Village Chorus. And we held our 2006 Christmas party at the La Hacienda Restaurant, Mission Inn, on Dec 13. New 2007 officers were sworn in at this meeting.


Officers and Directors for the year were: President Art Canale, 1st VP Russell, 2nd VP White, Secretary/Treasurer Thiel, Dirs. McGinty, Taylor, Gruber and Morford, Imm Past Pres Gleason, Chaplin Sievers, Editor Kwalunn, Sgt at Arms Pilarski, and Quartermaster Gleason.

We had a total of 52 members, only 25 of which were Association Members. In February, our Color Guard participated in the Eustis parade; members included: Paul Russell, Charles White, Ed Pilarski, Harold Sievers, William Simunek, and Art Canale.

Also in February, Dick Pfahler first suggested that Leesburg “needs a Veterans Park,” and solicited the Chapter’s active participation in this effort.

At the March Board meeting, VP Russell left the VP position because his membership was at variance with Chapter and Association bylaws; VP White moved to 1st VP and Ted Morford was named 2nd VP. In April Don Van Beck became a member. The DoF Convention was at Sebring, May 11, 12 & 13 where Harold Sievers was named the 1st DoF Eddie Ko Veteran of the Year.

Our annual Chapter picnic was held at Hickory Point on May 23. In July our Chapter Banner was reported missing. Also in July we held two Daisy Fund Raising Efforts (Jackie Gleason and Charlie White, team leaders). At Bellevue Publix. Approx: $810,  and  Leesburg Palm Plaza. Approx $457. In September we made the first reported contribution to the Senior Center of $150 “in appreciation for our using their facilities for our meetings.” Arthur Burke and Bob Grebe joined.

In October, Dick Pfahler again raised the issue of renaming a Leesburg City Park a Veterans Park. Rails to trails money was available because such a trail passes through the park. Also, the Mayor supports such an action.

In November, the minutes record: “Chapter #169 is proud that its president, Art Canale, was offered and has accepted leadership of the Leesburg Veteran Park Memorial Project. This involves bringing together several other veterans organizations, the obtaining of land and the design of a veteran’s memorial itself.”

On December 19, fifty-eight attended our annual Christmas party at the Mission Inn; Eric Walker, Navy Recruiter, was the speaker. Brooks Guseman passed away in December.


Officers for 2008 remained stable: President Canale, 1st VP White, 2nd VP Morford, Secretary/Treasurer Thiel, Past Pres Gleason, Chaplin Sievers, Quartermaster Gleason, Directors McGinty and Russell, Sgt-at-Arms Pilarski, and Editor Kwalunn. Our membership stood at 54 current members. We had 48 Regular and Life members, 3 POW, 3 Honorary.

President Canale reported at length about his efforts toward a Veterans Memorial at the Leesburg City Park. He had designed a memorial.

In March we awarded Scholarships to Leesburg and Eustis High School ROTC Programs with a check for $250 each. Morford, Sievers and Van Beck reported working with President Canale on the Lake County Veterans Memorial Project.

In May, President Canale reported on the Veterans Memorial at Fountain Park (VMFP) project, and said in future it will be a separate business entity from Chapter 169. He also reported that Don Van Beck had been designated as the VMFP Executive Director. Art continued as its President.

In August, Charlie First was our guest speaker, and we donated $378.00 to the VMFP to cover primarily lettering costs of our current members. In September, the Chapter increased its contribution to the VMFP to a total of $1,000.00, plus expenses incurred by officers in support of the effort.

In October, we implemented a new Chapter Application form that integrated Chapter and National membership information. And we took the position that, to be consistent with Association Bylaws and Procedures, all new Chapter members must simultaneously become National (Association) members and maintain that membership. Those that were not Association members were encouraged to become Association members when they renew, and that all Chapter officers are required to be Association members. Hence, the long dichotomy of Chapter vs. Association membership long followed by Chapter 169 was coming to a close.

The annual Christmas party was again held at the Mission Inn on December 17.


In 2009 Tom Thiel became President, with Charlie White and Joe Gruber as Vice Presidents, and Ted Morford as Sec-Treas. Board Members were: Bob McGinty, Jackie Gleason, Dick Pfahler, Ted Jansen, and John Yohn. Ed Pilarski was Sgt-at-arms, Harold Sievers Chaplain, Joan Klawunn was Editor, and Immediate Past Pres Art Canale.

Jim Bradford, Department of Florida KWVA Vice President, was our February guest; Jim invited the Chapter to host the 2010 DoF Convention. (Later we would vote to decline the invitation.)

Our guest speaker at our March meeting was Captain Deanna Chapman, of the Lake-Sumter EMS Community Relations Department.

Chapter #169 members were assured by Ex Dir Van Beck that their names will be placed on the wall at the Veterans Memorial at Fountain Park in Leesburg unless they choose to opt out. A list of members and their DD-214’s was submitted to VMFP.

We voted to abolish the Quartermaster position on the Board, and also to test combining the Board and Regular Members meetings.

Our annual Chapter Picnic was held at Hickory Point on April 22, with Ron Regan giving a brief talk. With regrets, we accepted the resignation of Joan Klawunn as Editor of the Schuttlebutt newsletter; President Thiel agreed to take it over until someone else could be found.

BG Tim Sullivan, Florida National Guard retired, was our May speaker.

To help us reduce expenses for reimbursement to members attending DoF meetings, we approved a motion to compensate the President for only one over-night stay, and to reimburse members for mileage and registration only. And we agreed to give new members a chapter cap.

In June our speaker was Mr. Greg Church, Vice President of Angel Flight at the Leesburg airport.

In August five 169 members attended a very touching military ceremony in Clermont for Specialist Alexander Miller who was killed in action in Afghanistan.

And Dick Pfahler told us his story relative to the Korean Orphans on Fushi-to Island while he was on the USS St. Paul during the Korean War.

In September, Don Lynch sponsored the first of a series of Coffee Klatches to attract new members. This one was held at Bob Evans nearby, and resulted in Jack Strasser renewing his membership, and we got to know Bob Peters, a Vietnam Veteran from Leesburg AmVets, who has been a very good friend of Chapter 169. Ted Jansen was appointed as Treasurer replacing Ted Morford who moved back to Tennessee to be with family.

In October we obtained our first-ever liability insurance from Merrell Insurance in Mount Dora.

And also in October we held our Chapter’s very first Tell America Program at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church school in Lady Lake. Arranged by Ted Morford before he left Florida, Dick Pfahler, Harold Sievers and Tom Thiel felt it was very successful.

Tell America is a KWVA effort to inform the public about the Korean War, and what it has meant to freedom in America, Korea and the world.

In November, Bob Peters of AmVets invited us to participate in a November 10 Breakfast with the Students Tell America program at Carver School, Leesburg.

We agreed to earmark 50 percent of all funds taken in on various fundraising efforts to a special fund for Education, Scholarship, and such similar activities. Thiel did 15 minute interview on 1410 Radio in Leesburg. And we decided to obtain a PO Box in Leesburg to minimize disruption resulting from changing officers.

We finished 2009 with 62 total members consisting of 2 honorary, 3 POW, 11 Life, and 46 Regular. We had ten new or renewing members this year or about 20 percent growth; they were: Jack Strasser and Ron Regan renewing, and Harry Olson, Audley Hanold, Harold Laten, Pat Carli, Billy Gaston, Richard Zettlemoyer, Bill Shumaker, and Al Schuetz. Sadly, we lost two members in 2009--Joseph J Martin and Frank M. Hardy. We also lost former member, Charles J. Rogers.

Our Association members grew by about 70 percent to 50. And we revised our New Member application form to fit entirely to the Association application.

It was in December of this year that the Association advised that as of Jan 1, 2010, all Chapter members must also be Association Members; Chapter officers were charged to enforce this.

 Finally, we held our annual Christmas party at Mission Inn on Dec. 16; Chapter 188 joined with us.


Membership at first of the year stood at 47 total; 37 Regular, 3 POW, 6 Chapter Life, and one Honorary. The noted drop in membership resulted from the new requirement that all members must now be Association members plus a number of non-renewals for other reasons and some membership file cleanup. For the first time in Chapter history, all Chapter members were also members of the Association.

In January, we sent $100 to Salvation Army in response to the Haiti relief effort, aligned our Chapter dues date with Association dues date and eliminated Chapter Life Membership.

We augmented daisies for our fund drives with a tri-fold brochure giving a short history of the Korean War. Much good has been achieved with these donations— from assisting needy veterans to donating scholarships to students and more.

In February, we held Tell America efforts at St Paul Catholic School and joined up with the Adopt a Kid Adopt a Vet program at Lake Montessori School. Don Van Beck and Tom Thiel appeared on the Veterans Salutes TV program on LakeFrontTV.

Denny Young, one of our two POW members, passed away on April 28, 2010. He was buried at Bushnell. Unfortunately, none of us knew of his passing.

Thank you to Charlie White, Joe Gruber and Jackie Gleason for an excellent picnic on April 28, at Hickory Park in Tavares.

In May, Bob Erickson and Lance Pauli of the Hardin-Pauli Funeral Home in Eustis, gave a presentation on planning ahead for veterans. Jack Reynolds was appointed to the Board of Directors, and Jack Strasser was appointed Secretary. And we established a Chapter Eddie Ko Award to be presented at the December or January meetings.

Ground breaking for the Veterans Memorial at Fountain Park was Saturday, May 22, 2010, at 11:00 AM. Don, Art and Dick were great.

Reporter Theresa Campbell and photographer Keri Rasmussen-Bekier from Daily-Commercial, attended our June Meeting. They were interested in doing an article recognizing the 60th Anniversary of the start of the Korean War, which appeared on page 1 of the Friday, June 25 Daily-Commercial.

Jack Reynolds initiated a program to contact residential associations to try to arrange for us to come to their recreation centers, and over coffee and donuts tell them about the Chapter and KWVA, and Dwight Brown did a presentation on Korean Money.

In July, we held the second Laptop Drawing with a net profit of about $970.00! Judy Christie drew the winner’s ticket, Roy A Mauerman of Bishop Dr, Lady Lake. Dwight Brown, who sold the ticket, and Tom Thiel delivered the laptop at Publix in the Villages on Sat. July 31. Photos and news articles appeared in local newspapers and also in the  Graybeards.

Bill Gaston died July 21; he is survived by: Zellah  Gaston, of Summerfield. Carol Becker, Dwight and Lee Brown, Jack Stasser, and Tom Thiel attended the Bushnell services.

In August, we launched a new Chapter website at: http://cid169.kwva.org/

Past President John Yohn passed away; the Chapter was well represented at his service, including the color guard. Mrs. Alta Yohn sent us a thank you note, and a $500 check, which went fully in our scholarship account and reserved to be awarded later on in his name.

October: A Commemoration Banquet for the 6oth Anniversary of the start of the Korean War was held  in Tampa FL on October 9, 2010. This was a beautiful and inspiring program financially supported by the Kim Family Foundation, of Tampa. The South Korean Government, and Eddie Ko were also prominently involved. About 32 attended from Chapter 169, probably the largest chapter contingent there. And we received very nice 60th Anniversary medallions from the South Korean Government.

Claus Tiesman and Ralph Rossignol told us about a project their Lake Wood Carver’s Club has underway; a hand carved Eagle Cane for Disabled Veterans.

November: We were invited to do our Tell America program again at Carver School. We were served breakfast at the school, and after a brief introductory session, each veteran then was assigned to a classroom. This was the first time we used our web site to make a Tell America presentation. After the breakout sessions, we returned to general area to be interviewed by journalism students.

The Carriage House Function was held on November 5-10. Dwight Brown put together a very excellent display. But sadly, we only obtained $19.00 in donations, so that was not good. But we did obtain two new members, Mr. Talbot, and Mr. Baron.

Our Christmas Party was held December 17 at Mission Inn with a total turnout of 80 including both 169 and 188. Eddie and Joann Ko were our special invited guests.

We ended 2010 with 55 members.

* Compiled by Tom J. Thiel, with contributions by Carol Becker, with Joe Madeline, in May 2010.