Legion post in Burlington, N.C. needs repairs after 90 years
Times-News, Burlington, N.C.
BURLINGTON, N.C. — Like most American Legion posts, Burlington’s Walter B. Ellis Post 63 is a place where veterans can come together as friends and brothers.
Upstairs in the Legion Hall at 315 W. Willowbrook Drive, they host meetings, sponsor sports teams and hold ceremonies. But it’s the basement lounge that’s the organization’s heart.
That’s where members who served in wars from World War II through Desert Storm gather daily for lunches, games and to trade war stories. The lounge is home to lots of laughter and its fair share of tears.
It’s been that way since 1924, when World War I veterans built the stone and brick building just beyond downtown Burlington.
But now, the camaraderie there is threatened by age and deterioration. Rainwater regularly floods the lounge. The building’s foundation needs extensive work to save the building. After years of water damage, the kitchen and bathrooms need to be replaced.
In July, the post’s executive board gave the ultimatum: Repair the building or close the post.
Post commander Roger Whaley said the repairs are estimated at $35,000. He and post leaders have been able to secure loans to cover some of the costs but are turning to the community for help with the rest.
“Some local businesses have already been very generous,” Whaley said. “Some others told us they were (already giving to other causes) but asked us to come back at the end of the month. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
More than $17,000 in exterior repairs should begin Thursday. The overhaul of the kitchen and bathrooms will follow once the post can raise enough money. Whaley hopes they can put together some fundraisers to help cover the costs.
“I don’t think a lot of people even know we’re here,” member Joan Johnson said Friday.
The building is at the corner of Willowbrook Drive and South Church Street but faces Willowbrook Drive.
Joan and her husband, Don Johnson, spent a combined 56 years in the Navy before they retired, moved here and became members. They’ve made many friends in the post’s 300 members.
There’s a wealth of experience in the lounge, from people like James Clayton “Dink” Holland, who spent six months in a Nazi POW camp in Nuremberg, Germany, and George “Jack” Phillips, an Army chaplain who served under Gen. Douglas McArthur after World War II ended.
Robert Dausman spent three years in Europe, reclaiming France from the Axis powers. Now he’s at the post each day.
Jimmy Clapp fought in Korea. He remembers it being so cold their guns wouldn’t work. A paratrooper, he was shot on Easter Sunday, 1951. He recovered, fought again and earned a second Purple Heart.
Advancing in years, they’ve relied on the post during the hard times and want it to be there for future generations.