Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Corvallis Memorial Day Parade honors Korean War veteran by Kevin Maki

As always, the Corvallis Memorial Day Parade packed crowds to Main Street with people even spilling onto the highway to watch the annual event.
The parade's grand marshal was a Navy veteran who served in the Korean War from 1950 to 1954.
Ralph Keppel lives in Hamilton and was raised in Missoula.
"I'm delighted to be in this parade," he said. "It's such an honor for me. I'm very pleased to be an American."
Keppel worked in mine warfare during his service.
"Every one of us veterans did something," he said. "Every veteran on the street I say thank you buddy or lady. This is why we have a free country."
"We veterans have a great bond together," he said. "We all know people that have lost their lives in the wars and we respect every one of them."
The parade is sponsored by American Legion Post 91 and the Ladies Auxiliary.
The parade is celebrating its 99th year in Corvallis, and this year veterans are honoring the American Legion on its 100th birthday.
It's often called "The Biggest Little Parade." But it's not very little.
It attracts people from all over the Bitterroot, with many visitors from other parts of the region and around the country.
There's something for everybody to watch, from veterans groups and school bands to tractors and horses and motorcycle riders.
It brings out a great many families, and kids on this cool, clear morning were especially attentive to the colorful entries and the candy that was distributed.

Keppel to be honored as Corvallis Grand Marshal MAY 23, 2019 BY JEAN SCHURMAN

Keppel points out the lighthouse miniature his father built from metal he melted down during World War I. Jean Schurman photo.
Each year, the Corvallis American Legion selects a veteran to lead the annual Memorial Day Parade as the grand marshal. This year, that honor goes to Ralph Keppel of Hamilton. He is a veteran of the Korean War and a lifelong Montanan. He and his wife, Marilyn, live in Hamilton in the green house with used brick details located on Pine Street. 
He says he never met a relative. He is the only child of parents who are only children as well. In fact, he’s never even met a person with the same last name. He and his wife have been married and 67 years. They have a son who lives in Alaska and is an Viet Nam war veteran, a daughter in Hawaii and another in Boise, Idaho. They also have a grandson who is a veteran of the Afghanistan war. 
Keppel was born in Missoula in 1930. His father was a tile setter and it was from him that Keppel learned to be a good worker and a hard worker. It was also from his father that he learned to love his country and to serve this country. His father was in the Navy in World War I and Keppel was always fascinated by his father’s stories. His dad was a moulder on a repair ship during that war. The ship’s function was to rebuild and repair parts of other ships. They would melt down metal to rebuild bearings, gears, rods, anything that was metal and broken, to send the ship on its way.
“You couldn’t just run down to Ace Hardware,” said Keppel. “They had to make everything for their repairs.”
One of Keppel’s most prized possessions is a metal lighthouse that his father made by melting down metal and casting it. This stands in a place of honor on the mantle next to other mementos, photos and paintings. The artistic gene was passed on from his father to Keppel and his children, and, by proxy, his wife. Everywhere you turn in their house, there is evidence of this talent, from wooden carvings by his wife to the ornate brickwork throughout the house and yard.
Seaman Ralph Keppel when he was in the Navy.
One such project has kept Keppel busy for the last few years. He builds the wooden crosses that are placed upon veterans graves in the Hamilton cemetery. He says there are over 2,000 veterans buried there and it is his hope to have one of these crosses on every grave eventually. He builds about 100 each spring and has the production line going right now. 
Keppel enlisted in the Navy seven days after he turned 21 and served for four years. His specialty was undersea weapons or mines. They spent their time checking the mechanisms and testing the mines to make sure they were ready when called for. However the Korean War was not a naval war and he never left stateside. He was stationed on the east coast for the duration of his service and finished at Yorktown, Virginia, at the U.S. Naval Mine Depot. 
“But we were always in readiness,” he said. “You never knew when they might need our services and we knew we were all part of a team.”
After leaving the service, Keppel and his family returned to Montana and soon began his own business. His father had told him, “If you can’t sell yourself, you can’t sell your job.”
With experience as a tile layer and brick layer, Keppel built buildings, walls, monuments and other structures all over. They worked hard and they built their home. “We lived the American Dream, we’re lucky people.”
When he retired, Keppel heeded some advise given to him by an ‘old-timer’. He told him to rest is to rust and Keppel has stuck to that philosophy. For many years he was a volunteer firemen. He spent 10 years on Hamilton’s zoning boards and the board of adjustment. He has also been a driver for the American Cancer society, giving rides to those who need treatment and don’t have transportation. He still goes to the gym and works out almost daily. 
And of course, he’s been very active in the American Legion. He is a 59 year member of Post 47 in Hamilton. He said he has to be one of the oldest Honor Squad members who execute the 21 gun salute at military funerals. “I’m very proud to stand for veterans. That’s why we’re free people.”
Keppel said he was very pleased to represent the veteran community and the community as a whole. “I think there are more qualified people. All of us have all played a part. It takes teamwork from everyone; I did my part and I did it well.”
This year’s parade will be on Monday, May 27, at 10 a.m.
The Corvallis American Legion Post #91 and the Ladies Auxiliary will host the 99th Annual Corvallis Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 27, at 10 a.m. The parade, which is one of the longest parades in the valley, is also one of the shortest. The parade is almost an hour long but the distance is only two blocks long. 
This year’s theme is “Celebrate the American Legion’s 100th Birthday.” The parade was organized by returning veterans after World War I upon their return from Europe. The solders marched down Main Street to the cheers of the local residents. Then, as now, patriotism is first and foremost for almost all of the participants. 
The day begins early with breakfast served from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Corvallis High School Lunch Room. The lunch room is located on the east side of the high school. After the parade, there are food booths, games and much visiting by old-timers and newcomers alike. There will also be a throwing competition after the parade at the south west corner of the Corvallis football field. This is hosted by the SAAA Bitterroot Heavy Athletics. 
At noon, following the parade, Post #91 will conduct the annual memorial ceremony at the Corvallis Cemetery. Post members will read the names of all of the veterans buried at the cemetery. The very earliest are from the Mexican War in 1848. Following that, there will be a ceremony at the Woodside Cutoff Bridge where a wreath will be placed in the Bitterroot River to honor all those lost at sea. 
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and traditionally held on May 30th. Memorial Day today is celebrated on the last Monday of May. 

Bitterroot Valley honors the fallen at Corvallis Memorial Day Parade BY MICHELLE MCCONNAHA

Memorial Grand Marshall

The American Legion and Auxiliary Post 91 hosted the Memorial Day celebrations in Corvallis on Monday to pay tribute to those who gave their all.
The large crowd, 10-15 people deep on both sides of Main Street, started selecting their seats about 8 a.m. for the parade that began two-hours later. They cheered for the many veterans who marched as color guards or rode on floats, in classic cars and on motorcycles (Patriot Guard Riders).
Ravalli County Sherriff Steve Holton led the parade that lasted an hour and a half.
Memorial Parade
Memorial Day Parade grand marshal was Hamilton resident Ralph Keppel. He  served in the Navy during the Korean War from 1950–1954 and has been a member of the American Legion for 59 years 
His enduring commitment to service made him the perfect choice for the theme selected by the Ladies Auxiliary, “The American Legion’s 100th Birthday.”
Keppel said he enjoyed riding in a classic Army jeep and that being grand marshall was a “beautiful experience.”
“I had so many tears in my eyes I could hardly see,” he said after the parade. “It is an overwhelming experience to do something like this. I have been in this parade for many years. I’ve marched, ridden and been down this road a long, long time.”
He said the crowd was exceptional.
“The people eat these veterans up,” he said. “You can’t do this with a dry eye, everyone loves us — the children waving, the mothers and fathers waving — it is totally overwhelming. It makes me feel so proud to be an American.”
Keppel said living in Montana all his life has been a blessing.
“I thank my lucky stars to have lived here and raised my family here,” he said. “I feel like we have a protective bubble over the top of us, compared to the rest of the world. Go, Montana, go!”
This year the parade announcer was Steve Fullerton of KLYQ. The weather was cooler and cloudy but no rain.
Memorial announcer Fullerton
The parade started with a cannon fire at the south end of Main Street.  Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton led the parade that lasted an hour and a half. The parade had over 85 entries including veterans, children, floats, music, clubs, horses, athletes, emergency vehicles, classic cars, business vehicles, two groups of political supporters and county attorney Bill Fulbright cleaning up after the horses.
Ravalli County Patrol Sergeant Jered Guisinger rode in the parade as the American Legion Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for Montana.
Memorial Day Parade
Always a crowd favorite is the Blue Devil Marching Band, that this year had Corvallis High School Homecoming King Galen Hughes as drum major and leader.
Memorial Band
The parade entries are judged before the parade each year and Grand Champion was Stony Brook Farm Equestrian Center, Reserve Grand Champion was Larry Bays’ 1937 GMC and Most Patriotic was the Patriot Guard Riders of Montana.
Memorial Patriot Guard Riders
Uncle Sam, aka Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf made an appearance. Darby Rodeo Royalty Queen Cassie Turner, Miss Addison Jessup and Miss Johnali Johns we exceptional riders.
Memorial Uncle Sam
Memorial Darby Rodeo Royalty
The Corvallis High School jazz band performed after the parade and the Corvallis Performing Arts Booster Club hosted a barbeque.
After the parade, Post 91 conducted its annual memorial ceremony at noon at the Corvallis Cemetery with a bagpiper and 21-gun salute then went to Woodside Cutoff Bridge for a special tribute honoring those who died at sea.

Grand Champions Of The 2019 Corvallis Memorial Day Parade !

Memorial Day Parade Corvallis Montana 2019 ! Part 1

Memorial Day Parade in Corvallis on Monday BY MICHELLE MCCONNAHA

Memorial Keppels

Korean War Navy veteran Ralph Keppel will be the Grand Marshall of the Memorial Day Parade hosted by American Legion Post #91 in Corvallis on Monday.
Keppel is 89 and has been a strong servant in the American Legion for 59 years.
“Probably 30 of those years I served on the honor squad for burying the veterans,” he said. “I’ve been post commander and went through the chairs. When we were young we did a lot of that stuff. My wife has volunteered a lot and that’s what you do in a community.”
Memorial Keppel in hat
As a longtime honor guard, Keppel said he feels like he’s marched in the Corvallis Memorial Day parade for what feels like “912 years.”
“The American Legion Stevensville Post has a wagon that they pull all us old ducks,” Keppel said. “I can’t tell you the love and the appreciation you get from the people as you go by. It just about brings you to tears as you go down that street, everyone is cheering for you and waiving at you. It is a terrific rush.”
Keppel said he is looking forward to riding in a jeep and doing the presidential wave as grand marshal.
Ralph and Marilyn Keppel have been married 67 years and built the house they live in 54 years ago. She worked for Ravalli County and he was a masonry contractor for 40 years who
Built the First Security Bank 65 years ago. He’s been a volunteer fireman, served on the zoning board and driven cancer patients for treatment.
He just completed making and painting 100 crosses to mark veteran’s graves in the Riverside Cemetery in Hamilton.
“There are over 1,000 military graves in that cemetery, just the ones we know,” Keppel said. “Gaining new and young members is a challenge. We are having a real struggle to have young people to join in they have too many deviations with all the electronics and all the other stuff they do, so they don’t have time for it.”
Memorial young Keppel
Keppel served in the Navy from 1950–1954 in undersea mines. His dad (Andrew) served in WWI, his son (William) served in Vietnam and his grandson (Scott Lette) served in Afghanistan.
Keppel said his father, born in 1894, only had a third-grade education because he had to start work in a factory at age 12 to support his family before child labor laws.
“He learned the tile trade, was very smart and learned in his own way,” Keppel said. “He made me earn everything I ever had, to make me stand on my own feet. That sounds tough but when you have to earn something yourself you take care of it.”
Keppel is a native Montanan who grew up in Missoula, before he had even travelled to larger Montana he went to boot camp in San Diego. He remembers that once he caught a bus to Hollywood to watch the radio show of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.
“Well Rita Hayworth came out on stage and I was sitting in the front row,” Keppel said. “She put her face about six inches from mine and winked. Life has a lot of nice experiences.”
The Ladies Auxiliary sponsors the parade and select the theme, this year it is “The American Legion’s 100th Birthday.”
The Corvallis Memorial Day parade begins at 10 a.m. at the north end of Main Street with local school children, floats, music, clubs, horses, politicians, emergency vehicles, classic cars and veterans.
The Corvallis High School choir will give a performance after the parade and will host a barbecue.
After the parade, Post 91 will conduct its annual memorial ceremony at noon at the Corvallis Cemetery where they read the names of all the veterans buried at the cemetery dating back to the Mexican War (1848). Then Post 91 goes to Woodside Cutoff Bridge to honor those who died at sea.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Corvallis' Mason honored for service to country and community By PERRY BACKUS

In a room filled to the brim, a Corvallis native was honored Monday for his service to his country and his community.
Standing against one wall of the Corvallis Fire Hall, Doug Mason’s father was so proud that he had to fight back tears after watching his son receive a commendation and flag that had flown over the nation's "Capitol from U.S. Greg Gianforte.
It had been about a month and a half since Doug Mason walked into BJ’s Restaurant to attend the veterans’ prayer breakfast that he had been instrumental in starting.
Corvallis' Doug Mason honored
“He came in that day and said, ‘By the way, I'm going to get an award,’” Gary Mason said, with a smile. “I wasn’t surprised. He has done a lot since he’s come back home. That’s just part of his nature. Even before he went into the service back when he was just a boy, he had it all planned out. He’s done just what he said back then.”
Doug Mason joined the U.S. Army in 1981, a year before he graduated from Corvallis High School. He served with the Second Ranger Battalion and saw action in Grenada in 1983. When he finished his first enlistment, he returned home and went back to school and ROTC. After graduation, he was commissioned as an officer and obtained the rank of captain in the Infantry.
Mason is a decorated veteran. His commendations include the Valorous Unit Award that recognizes extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy of the country.
His military career ended abruptly after he was severely injured in Korea when a dump truck smashed into the vehicle in which he was riding in 1995. With his back broken, Mason had to learn to walk again. He moved back to Corvallis in 1999 and officially retired from the military in 2000.
“It was a long ordeal, but we got through it,” Mason said.
He didn’t let any of that slow him down when he returned to his hometown.
Mason went to work to revitalize the Corvallis American Legion Post 91 and eventually became its commander. Along the way, he used his leadership skills to promote patriotism and respect for veterans and the military in his community.
He worked tirelessly to expand the historic Corvallis Memorial Day Parade and helped establish a second parade honoring veterans on Veterans Day. He was the driving force behind the creation of U.S. and POW flag displays along Corvallis’ Main Street. Every year, he teaches flag etiquette to students in the community.
Mason’s mother, Margaret Mason, remembers the local American Legion post wasn’t doing well when her son returned home. Its members were getting older and younger veterans didn’t seem to be interested in joining.
Corvallis' Doug Mason honored
“Doug always had a strong feeling about the American Legion,” she said. “He thought it was something he could do and he worked hard to build it back up.”
The names of the veterans in the community’s cemetery are read during a special ceremony on Memorial Day following the annual parade. Mason has made certain that all of the veterans’ names are on that list.
“I don’t know how many miles he’s walked in the Corvallis Cemetery to get every veteran's name on the roster, but it’s been a lot,” she said. “I think he knows that cemetery like the back of his hand.”
Margaret Mason said she was thrilled to watch her son receive the commendation and flag in front of so many that have meant so much to him over the years.
“I think he is so deserving of the honor,” she said. “It’s truly an honor.”
Gianforte told those gathered Monday at the Corvallis Fire Hall that he started the Montana Congressional Veteran Commendation to honor men and women who served their country and then came back home to serve their communities.
Fellow American Legion member, Mike Slaughter, nominated Mason for the honor.
On Monday, Corvallis American Legion Post 91 member Pat Clover was on hand to ensure the ceremony went as planned.
“Doug is really well known in the Legion and veterans’ community,” Clover said. “He’s the brains behind the post in Corvallis. He’s a native son and knows everyone.
“When most people think of the Legion in Corvallis, they think of Doug,” he said.
Mason said it was humbling to stand up in front of a room filled with people who were his heroes as he grew up in Corvallis.
“There were so many guys that I looked up to there,” he said. “My Uncle Frank was there. When I was younger, he was in Vietnam. He was always my hero. When I was 12, I knew I was going into the Army.”
Corvallis' Doug Mason honored
It was there that he learned how to lead by example. 
Recently he offered this advice about managing people to one of his sons.
“I told him the first thing to know is that you don’t tell anyone to do anything that you’re not willing to do yourself,” Mason said. “That’s one of the first things they teach you in the military.
“I’ve found that you can always get a little more out of your community and out of yourself, if you're willing to give direction and then lead by example,” he said.
When Mason looks back at all that’s been accomplished by the Legion and local veterans since he’s returned home, he thinks that might be the reason why.
“I kind of live by that,” he said. “The people that I tend to be around kind of think the same way. When that happens, you can get a lot accomplished.”