- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) - The Wahpeton-Breckenridge Last Man Standing Club, what was once made up of a large group of World War II veterans, is disbanding as there are only four surviving members left. The club’s remaining funds, $403 and change, will be donated to the veteran’s home in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, later this month.

A ceremonial bottle of wine has been kept by the club since its inception, typically saved for the last remaining members to open and toast those who have gone before them. Club member Eugene “Bud” Leinen, 92, said he has the bottle, and has decided to display it at the Wahpeton Vets Club. Wilkin County Veterans Service Officer Ron Verhaagen said he will work on getting a display case made for it.

The club was formed in 1955 by Leinen, Dana Powers and Urvin LeNoue, the (Wahpeton) Daily News (http://bit.ly/2j5lrx2 ) reported. The club boasted 164 members at its height.

A story from the Daily News in 2005 noted there were 39 members left at that time, when the club’s commander was William “Tony” Radke, and the club clerk was Powers.

Annual club meetings were held at the Wahpeton Vets Club and the Breckenridge Auxiliary would provide the food, according to Leinen.

“We used to fill this room,” Leinen said during an interview at the club this week. “We met once a year here for our banquet on Nov. 11, always on Nov. 11. It started dwindling down. Every time a man died, I would send (the family) a memorial of $25 from the club. Now we’re down to four. Here I stand and I can correspond with nobody.”

Leinen, a Minnesota native, said the club has not met for at least four or five years, as nobody was able to attend but him.

He said of the last remaining members, Henry Bontjes is in the veterans home in Fergus Falls, Donald Spoonheim, who is blind and in a wheelchair, lives at a nursing home in New Mexico and the other member, Francis Reiber, he hasn’t been able to get in touch with.

Two large photos hanging in the back entry of the club show most of the original 164 members with all the members’ names listed.

Last Man Standing clubs exist nationwide, but their numbers have dwindled considerably as members pass away. The club was modeled on the previously existing Last Man Standing Clubs for World War I veterans.

Leinen, who served as a staff sergeant with the combat engineers in Okinawa during WWII at the age of 18, said he’s very proud of the club and laments that younger veterans are not joining the veterans clubs in the numbers they did when he was a young man.

The Veterans Club, also home of the American Legion, in Wahpeton, is located at 219 Dakota Ave.

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