Larry E. Bennett Post 255



     On February 10, 1921 John F. Covert called a meeting of ex-servicemen from National City, Sweetwater Valley, Chula Vista and South Bay District for the purpose of discussing the organization of an American Legion Post.  This meeting was held in the old K of P Hall in National City.  Fifteen ex-servicemen signed the application for a charter:  Edward D. Boal, Joseph A. Burke, Charles A. Smallwood, Elmer J. Hertel, Ralph B. Bagnall, William C. Addis, Luther M. Harris, Richard G. Williams, John F. Covert, J. C. Dutra, Robert J. Clemmens, Morris C. Allen, Adrian L. Shadduck, Richard L. Cornelius and Frank W. Crocker.  John F. Covert was appointed temporary chairman and Edgar D. Boal secretary.  The Post received its charter and was signed by Buron R. Fitts, Commander of the Department of California on March 17, 1921.   
      The first name of the Post was Southwest Post No 255 and John F. Covert was elected the first Commander.  Joseph A. Burke was elected Vice Commander; Edgar D. Boal - Adjutant and Treasurer.  The Executive Committee was composed of J. C. Dutra, Elmer J. Hertel, Morris C. Allen, Charles A. Smallwood and Ralph B. Bagnall.  Meetings were held monthly either in the K of P Hall or the Fire Hall in National City.
      At a meeting held December 8, 1921 the name of the Post was changed to Kenneth L. Blanchard Post 255 in honor of a National City young man who paid the supreme sacrifice.
      THE BLANCHARD FAMILY (source unknown):  Mr. and Mrs. Fredrick G. Blanchard came to National City from Boston in 1888.  They lived for a long time in the house known as the “Blanchard House” on Tenth Street, near where the Luther Harris family lived.  They brought their son Fredrick with them and later added 2 more boys:  Lawrence and Kenneth – and then a dear little girl who soon left them for a home in another world.  Mr. Fredrick Blanchard was an expert gardener.  He loved to trim rosebushes and other shrubs and was quite probably the first expert gardener in National City.  But there were not enough gardens here to keep him busy, so he decided to try his skill on lemons and other fruit trees.  He may even have pruned the orchard at the head of Paradise Valley which D.E. Strahl planted, the first orange orchard on the Rancho de la Nacion, which was later purchased by Mr. Owens and by the way of Miss Owens finally became the property of Joseph Fritz – her husband and one of our former National City Councilmen.  (The oranges originally were all seedlings.)  However that may be, Mr. Fredrick Blanchard made pruning his steady occupation and so well was his work done, that he was called further and further away from home, with more to do than he could take care of, until added years forced him to confine his activities to his own large garden east of Highland, near where the Corey’s’ lived.  After Mrs. Blanchard died, Mr. Frderick Blanchard lived alone and went nowhere except very rarely to Coronado where he visited Mrs. David Webster whose daughter Mary was married to his son Fred (Profressor Fred Blanchard, former head of the English department at the University of California, Los Angeles branch.  After son Lawrence and his wife returned from Australia and added Jane to their family, they were very good to the old gentleman (Mr. Fredrick Blanchard) in every way, until death called him.  Son Lawrence was always and electrical genius.  When the nation called for volunteers, he was taking a post-graduate course in electricity at U.C. while son Kenneth was studying to be a lawyer.  Both dropped everything and enlisted - going over with one of the first hospital units.  “Over there” they made good, and were promoted several times – son Kenneth always just a jump ahead.  When son Lawrence had almost completed an electrical circuit connecting the various posts in France, a bomb sliver struck him over one eye, causing him to lose his sight.  In addition to this, he had several times been gassed.  In spite of this, he was made head of the auto division receiving the foreign dignitaries who came to Paris to sign up for the armistice, etc.  Later, son Lawrence coming home by way of Gibraltar was in charge of a division of soldiers.  Son Kenneth had been put in charge of a hospital in France and would have to wait 2 years before coming home.  He was suddenly taken with pneumonia in a violent form and in a few days had answered to the last roll call.  This is the Kenneth Blanchard after whom the local Post is named.
     The dues of Post 255 were $3.00 at first until December 1, 1925 when they were raised to $4.00.
     The Kenneth L. Blanchard Post 255 bought a building in Lincoln Acres for their Legion Hall June 12, 1931 and dedicated it July 10, 1931.  They sold this hall March 11, 1936 and began holding their meetings at Central School.  The Post took out a building permit to start a new Legion Hall at 35 East 18th Street, National City on January 27, 1940.  The first meeting was held there June 13, 1940.  After the regular meeting held March 13, 1941 the Auxiliary gave a birthday party in honor of the 22nd anniversary of The American Legion and Past Commanders.  At this party Bills and Notes were burned so that left our Legion Hall all paid for.
On November 10, 1949 the Post got a building permit to enlarge the Legion Hall 16 feet in front and 25 feet in the rear with Post members doing all the work.
EDITOR'S NOTE:  I need to get up in the attic to see if there are any history records from 1949 through 1990.
     At the regular meeting in May of 1991, the Post elected the first Vietnam Veteran as Commander - Larry E. Bennett.  He served three additional terms as Post Commander in 1992, 1994 and 1996.  Following his transfer to Post Everlasting in May of 2002, the Post spent an exhausting year going through the proper procedures to dedicate (and rename) the Post to Larry E. Bennett.  The new charter was issued on June 6, 2003 and the dedication ceremony was held August 23, 2003.
     LARRY E. BENNETT STORY (written by Joe Bonilla):  Larry E. Bennett was born in Bassett, Arkansas on July 18, 1946 to Oliver and Louella Bennett.  He had two brothers, Billy and Keith, and three sisters, Marion, Joann and Nancy.

      In 1954 the family moved to Aurora, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.  This is where Larry grew up and spent most of his childhood.  It was here that he learned many of his passions – hunting, fishing, hanging out with friends and just being wild.  In fact, one time while looking for something to do, he climbed a tree and his buddies cut it down so he could ride it as it fell.  Talk about joy riding and dare-devil, but that’s what Larry was like.

      Larry didn‘t like school much so he joined the Navy in 1963 at the age of 17 to see the world.  When he came to San Diego on duty it was love at first sight and he never would return to Aurora, except to visit.  San Diego, Chula Vista and finally National City became his home.

      Larry served from 1963 to 1967 in the Navy as a Signalman and was a Vietnam Veteran.  Upon release he continued with his passions of hunting throughout the southwest and fishing - both deep sea and fresh water.  He would also take up major camping.  During this period he also returned to school and received his GED from Sweetwater Adult School.

      In 1986 he joined the American Legion Post 255.  From the time he joined he immediately became involved and made an impact and difference.  Larry was responsible for initiating the monthly Fish Fry that is now legendary.  He also thought up the idea to rent a booth at the local 4th of July Carnival.  He and his crew made fish tacos and made so much money that it kick started the Building Fund.  From then on Post 255 was on the fast track, raising so much money for the Building Fund, that Larry was able to achieve many of his dreams for Post 255.  Larry was responsible for:

·        Remodel of the kitchen

·        Remodel of the game room

·        Remodel of two existing bathrooms

·        Remodel of hall restrooms to accommodate handicapped persons

·        Raising in excess of $100, 000 for the Building Fund

·        Addition of new heating and air conditioning unit for the Post

·        Remodel of Post and Auxiliary offices

·        And many more ideas to help the Post meet the needs of the local community and various Legion charities

     When Larry moved to the west coast he fell in love with San Diego, his adopted home.  When he joined the American Legion he fell in love with it also and what it stood for and dedicated himself to make Post 255 a better place.

      Larry Bennett was a self-made man.  He became well read…always reading.  He was very intelligent and hard working.  He bought a construction company and built it to become one of the most respected companies in the business.

      Larry is survived by his wife, friend and partner, Roxanne; three sons, Michael, Paul and J.R.; and daughter, Brooke.

       If you are fortunate to come into our Post today, everything you see is the vision of Larry E. Bennett.  It was truly a fitting gesture of this Post membership to acknowledge this man and veteran for his accomplishments and rename this Post that he truly loved in his name.

MORE TO FOLLOW......................................
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