Outstanding bills force Brewer VFW to join Bangor post

Posted Feb. 17, 2009, at 8:29 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The Isaac E. Clewley Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4917 has been in a financial bind for quite some time, so post leaders decided to join with Bangor’s Norman N. Dow Post 1761, Commander Ron Smith of Post 1761 said Tuesday.

“They have consolidated with us,” he said. “It became official on the 12th of February. The consolidation process started last October.”

The new combined post is the Norman N. Dow-Isaac E. Clewley Post 1761.

“We took our name and added their name and kept our number because we’re the older of the two,” Smith said.

Bangor’s first VFW was chartered in 1919 but became inactive after a time and was reinstated in 1929 under the Dow name, he said.

The new partnership is beneficial to both groups, because of the lack of active members in both posts, Smith said.

“They have four members, maybe five, come to meetings” and play an active role, out of 223 members, he said. “We have 267 or so [members], and have seven or so come” to meetings.

“Our rank-and-file is getting quite old and a lot aren’t able to attend meetings,” said 73-year-old Don Mattson, who had been Brewer’s post commander since 2004. “Plus, we’re running out of money.”

The Brewer group was in debt, mostly for outstanding heating oil and electric bills that total $12,000 to $13,000, he said Tuesday.

“Our fuel bill was killing us,” Mattson said. “We just kept going deeper and deeper in debt.”

The building at 237 Center St. is up for sale and is listed for just more than $159,000. Once sold, the proceeds will be used to pay the outstanding bills, he said.

“For weeks, we’ve been cleaning out the building and taking stuff over to Bangor,” Mattson said. “Today we took nine truckloads to the Brewer dump.”

Some items also have made their way to the Brewer Historic Society and Brewer City Hall, City Manager Steve Bost said.

“It’s unfortunate, but I am pleased they found a home with the VFW in Bangor,” Bost said.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, with its auxiliaries, has 2.2 million members in approximately 8,100 posts worldwide, the vfw.org Web site states.

“Its mission is to ‘honor the dead by helping the living’ through veterans’ service, community service, national security and a strong national defense,” it states.

Brewer is not alone in its financial struggles, Mattson said, adding that nine posts in Maine already have merged with others in the past year and three other mergers are possible.

“It’s an awful situation,” he said. “Posts are falling into hard times and merging with each other. I think the merge will be good for us.”

The new post will continue Memorial Day ceremonies, traditionally done by the Brewer group, at the Clewleyville Cemetery in North Brewer, Mattson said.

The event is “quite impressive” and includes laying wreaths on veterans’ graves, taps, rifle salute, prayer, music and a “roll call” of the deceased from the Revolutionary War to the present day, he said. “There are a lot of names.”

The new combined post meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the VFW post on Outer Hammond Street in Bangor. The next meeting will be on March 12, and a special “company dinner” is planned for the April 9 meeting, Smith said.

News of the consolidation has been sent to all of the nearly 500 members, and “they’re all welcome to come over” to meetings and the dinner for fellowship, he said.

Boy Scouts from Troop 1 have been helping the veterans with the move and will help with a flag-burning ceremony Feb. 27 at the Brewer post’s parking lot, Mattson said.

“We’re going to take down our own flag from the post” that day, he said. “It’s still flying.”

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