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Commander Change At American Legion Post 152By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Williamstown-A change in leadership at the Richard A. Ruether American Legion Post 152 isn’t likely to diminish the veterans organization’s strong community presence, according to past and current post leaders.
|Former Richard A. Ruether American Legion Post 152 Commander Richard "Bud" Trombley.|
After serving as post commander since late 1998, Richard “Bud” Trombley, 76, of 2 Higgins Court, did not seek reelection this year. Post historian Gary Walsh, 74, of Cole Avenue, was elected as post commander in May, and said during a recent interview that he is looking forward to serving the membership.
Walsh had words of praise for Trombley and Trombley’s predecessor, David Larabee, 51, of Henderson Road, who spent most of the 1990s as post commander.
“Bud was a good commander and so was David,” Walsh said. “Both of them were very good and very fair. Being the commander is a great job. There’s always plenty to be done. I don’t quite know what the next project will be. You never can tell what’s next. I know that I want to be a good commander.”
"I Did My Best"
The members of Post 152 aren’t afraid to tackle big projects. Under Trombley’s tenure as commander, the organization lobbied for and ultimately erected a Veteran’s Memorial Wall at Field Park at no cost to the town, worked with Williams College officials during the design and construction of a new post home on Latham Street, and built an honor roll for veterans killed in action during wartime at the Latham Street property. The post also sent World War II veteran Roger Denette, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack, to Hawaii in 2001 for a 60th anniversary ceremony.
One entrance to a Veteran's Memorial Wall erected at Field Park under Trombley's tenure as Post 152 commander.
Larabee credited Trombley for the Field Park memorial and an increase in membership.
Larabee said that he and Trombley were conversing during a Field Park American flag pole installation ceremony – a project that occurred under Larabee’s leadership – and Larabee asked Trombley what direction Trombley planned to take as the new post commander.
“I said to Bud ‘this is my last project, what do you think you’re going to do?’” Larabee said. “And he said that he’d like to return a memorial wall to Field Park. A lot of things happened during that time [while Trombley was commander]. He has brought the legion membership to over 200 members, and with the death rate of veterans, that’s quite an accomplishment.”
Speaking during a July 6 interview, Trombley said that he is proud of the post’s accomplishments during his time as commander but emphasized that many members worked extremely hard to bring projects to successful completion.
“It was a long haul,” he said of his tenure. “But a lot was accomplished and I’m really glad. I did my best.”
No Easy Task
The memorial wall was easily the post’s most publicly controversial endeavor to date. Trombley said that the idea was to replace a wooden honor roll that had been at Field Park but fell into disrepair and was ultimately removed. Controversy erupted when legion members pitched the idea to town Selectmen in 1999. Some selectmen disagreed with the Field Park site, Trombley said.
“The vets wanted Field Park and many people believed that Eastlawn Cemetery was the appropriate place for the memorial,” Trombley said, and explained that the memorial wall was designed to honor all known wartime veterans from the town, living and deceased, from the Revolutionary War to the present.
“A lot of the veterans did not want to go to a cemetery and see their names when they were still alive,” he said.
The controversy captured local media headlines frequently and Post 152 found itself at the center of a lengthy, intense, public debate; something that is uncommon for many American Legion posts, Trombley said.
“It took a lot to get this done,” Trombley said. “For a while, it seemed like the town and us were at each other’s throats. There were times when I thought ‘we should give this up, it’s not worth it.’ But when I really thought about it, I’d know, ‘yes, it is.’”
A Town Meeting vote cleared the way for the memorial to be built at Field Park. The site was dedicated in 2001, and the inscribed marble walls now draw visitors on a regular basis. The memorial wall and the post home-based honor roll were designed by legionnaire and renowned craftsman and barn historian Richard Babcock.
“You can’t thank him enough,” Trombley said.
Blank space was left on one of the memorial walls so that names could be added if necessary. At the time of the dedication, many legion members said they hoped no names would be added, but during the interview Trombley noted that the Iraq situation vanquished that hope.
“I guess we’ll need the space now,” he said quietly.
Post 152 awards a $500 Raymond Hill Scholarship every year to a graduating high school senior, and in 1999, donated $20,000 to the Sherman-Burbank Chapel restoration project. Legion-hosted breakfasts held during the fall, winter, and spring raise money that benefits civic and community efforts.
Downtime? What's Downtime?
Trombley retired from the North Adams Highway Department after 20 years of service, and then worked as a custodian at the former
Williamstown National Bank for 16 years. He is currently employed as a custodian for Paul Harsch Associates, is a member of the Bennington Lions Club, and remains an active member of Post 152. He is a volunteer at the town’s tourist information booth at the junction of Routes 7 and 2. He is married with two adult children and five grandchildren.
An honor roll erected at Post 152 post home site on Latham Street.
When asked if he believes he will ever fully retire, Trombley smiled.
“I’ll retire completely when they carry me off,” he said. “I have a very supportive family, and I like doing things. I like to contribute. I can’t see myself doing nothing; I just can’t see it. Being the commander took a lot of my time, and I won’t miss that. But I will be a member of the American Legion and I’ll do whatever they ask of me.”
Susan Bush may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 802-823-9367.