- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LAKE ELMO, Minn. (AP) - The 53 World War II veterans who formed the Kilroy Last Man Standing Club once envisioned its final two members toasting the departed with a ceremonial bottle of wine bought in 1954.

Instead, with only a handful of members left, they voted Monday to disband rather than wait for time to claim them. Five of the seven remaining members gathered at a restaurant in Lake Elmo for memorial service to honor the deceased members, as well as their wives and widows, with a final toast.

“Our numbers are smaller, and time is shorter,” 87-year-old Stillwater resident Kelly Brookman said. “We don’t know who will be around next year. Better to end on a high note than a low note.”

Although it wasn’t planned, the group took a vote and began their final meeting.

“I can’t tell you how much getting together has meant to my dad,” said Bob Arndt of Oakdale, whose 88-year-old father, Dick, is a member of the club. “We will miss all you great people. But eventually we have to say enough is enough.”

After reading a long list of the club’s missing members, a bottle of wine that’s been present at every meeting for the past 60 years was uncorked. They sipped the wine while listening to “Taps” and paused for a moment of silence.

The veterans also shared stories of their deployments, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/12IYszy ) reported. One of the remaining members, Gene Peltier, was stationed in China when the atomic bombs hit Japan. Another member, George Siegfried, was on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion.

The club was named after a fictitious character popular with American soldiers during the war.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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