A History of the Pvt. John Lyskawa V.F.W. Post #7546
6828 N. Waverly Street, Dearborn Heights, Michigan 48127
Post #7546 History
On July 9, 1946, the Pvt. John Lyskawa V.F.W. Post #7546 was officially founded on Detroit’s west side. Named for west side Detroit Polish American Pvt. John Lyskawa, who gave his life at Normandy on August 8, 1944, and whose biography is printed at the end of this history, the Post consisted of 66 charter members. For over 50 years, the Post’s membership has lived out the V.F.W.’s motto: “We remember the dead by helping the living.”
The Post was formed as World War II ended and approximately 20,000,000 veterans were being discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces, making their way back home, and flooding American cities. At that time, thousands of veterans’ posts sprouted up in U.S. cities.
The Pvt. John Lyskawa membership first met in Joe Claramunt’s Bar at 4701 West Warren Avenue at 30th Street on Detroit’s west side. In 1948, they moved to the Buchanan Café at 4848 Buchanan at 32nd Street in the St. Francis d’Assisi neighborhood. In 1951, the Post moved again to Bud Stempien’s Bar at 4636 Michigan Avenue at 30th Street, a well-known and popular west side Detroit tavern located in the heart of our Polish community.
In 1962, after raising money through the sale of bonds, the membership procured their first building at 4508 32nd Street at Rich. However, the members had their sights on a Memorial Home in the suburbs.
In 1965, 13 lots were purchased on Waverly Street in Dearborn Heights, and on April 27, 1969, the Post’s final Memorial Home was completed. The dedication included a ribbon cutting ceremony by Presiding Mayor John Canfield and Post Commander Walter Filipowski.
In its early years, the Post held its first major event in 1949, when it received its first colors. Pvt. John Lyskawa’s mother, Mrs. Josephine Lyskawa, presented the colors to Commander Harvey Gribbons, and dinner was served to 600 guests.
In 1946, the Post named its first Commander, a World War II veteran named Elmer Klawuhn. The Post’s first Commander from the Korean conflict was Richard Lyskawa, who served from 1957 – 1958. The first Commander from Vietnam was Mel Dompier, who served from 1982 – 1983.
In 1952, Comrade Harvey Gribbons was named the Post’s first District Commander. He received the first Dr. Galanty Award in 1973.
Stan Baranowski was the first of many of the Post’s first All State Commanders, holding that position from 1969 through 1970.
In 1971, Mitchell May was awarded the Post’s first Department Ralph Levan Trophy in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments as a Service Officer.
In 1974 – 1975, Commander Stan Kobak won All State honors. He would return as Post Commander in 1990 – 1991.
Bill Zimmer was the first All American Commander, serving from 1979 through 1980.
Elmer Wurster was the Post’s first State V.F.W. Commander, holding that position from 1990 through 1991. He was also named All American Commander at that time.
Post #7546 celebrated its tenth anniversary with a dinner celebration on March 2, 1957. Every year thereafter, up until and including the Post’s 50th year, the Post marked each consecutive five-year anniversary with a special celebratory event.
In 1971, Post #7546 held its first Memorial Day Parade.
In 1975, the Post received its first number one award in hospital work from the State. Many such awards would follow throughout the years. It was in 1977 that the Lyskawa Post made its first trip to the Veterans Hospital in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Since that time, it has made annual visits to that hospital, and in 1995, the Post once again received an award for number one in hospital work at the V.F.W.’s State Convention in Lansing, Michigan.
The Lyskawa Post has a long tradition of participating in poppy sales. In 1978, Chester Koscielniak received the Post’s first poppy seller award. Since that time, the Post has been recognized numerous times as number one in poppy sales, with top awards going to Gerry O’Chel in 1990 and 1991 and Alex Grzybienik in 1992.
On November 4, 1986, Commander Art Salesky passed away while in office, marking the first of the Post’s Commanders to pass away in office. Commander Dorman Parson, who succeeded him, then passed away while in office in March of 1988.
The Lyskawa Post has also been recognized by the State of Michigan with an award for its newsletter. In 1989 – 1990, for the first time, the Post’s newsletter ranked first in the state.
Beginning in the 1990s, membership and participation in Post activities began to decline, not only at the Lyskawa Post, but also at other V.F.W. posts. Notwithstanding, the members of Lyskawa Post continued to excel at their participation in Post activities and programs.
In April of 1991, a Testimonial Dinner honoring Department Commander Elmer Wurst was held at the Crystal Gardens in Southgate, Michigan, in recognition of his success serving in that capacity. Also in April of 1991, while on leave from active duty, U.S. Army Specialist Gary Stewart became the Lyskawa Post’s first Desert Storm member. The year 1991 closed with the end of the Post’s prestigious Dr. Galanty Award. It was a well-intended and much-deserved award to those who received it. However, at times there was some controversy surrounding it. Thus, the executive board and membership decided to discontinue it.
Dave EnDyke was installed as Commander for 1991 – 1992. During those years, the Post was involved in many protests against individuals burning or defacing the American flag, but the protests were in vain. In 1990, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act, which prohibited knowingly burning or otherwise defacing the American flag. However, the Supreme Court ultimately reversed that law, holding that it violated the First Amendment.
In 1992, Commander-in-Chief Jack Carney visited the Lyskawa Post. That same year, Tom Wayne became the Post’s second Commander to be recycled.
Also in 1992, Elmer Wurster became editor of the MOV in May. In August, Commander Wayne and 14 delegates participated in the national convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.
In 1993, Stan Kobak was the Post’s top poppy seller, and Don Shoff was elected Commander for 1993 – 1994.
In 1993, the national convention was held in Dallas, Texas. A tragic event occurred that year during the Memorial Day ceremonies at St. Hedwig Cemetery in Dearborn Heights. While Mass was being celebrated, Leonard Budzik died of a massive heart attack. He was dressed in full Honor Guard regalia and was standing at ease near the altar when he collapsed and died. That event left a lasting imprint on the hearts and minds of Lyskawa Post’s members.
February 10, 1994, marked another key date in the history of Post #7546. On that day, the membership rejected a vote for the adoption of a Ladies Auxiliary.
In May of 1994, Don Shoff was appointed State Hospital Chairman, and Ben Benton was appointed to the State MOV Committee. Bill Kulpa was top poppy seller that year.
Jerry Kantor was elected Commander for 1994 – 1995. That year, the national convention was held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the 1990s, the Post’s hospital team, along with Chairman Len Piotrowski and Elmer Wurster, received several top awards. Post #7546 continued to excel in poppy sales, and in 1995 and 1996, Leonard Hejka was the top poppy seller.
The Lyskawa Post adopted the theme “A Grateful Nation Remembers” for its participation in numerous national events commemorating World War II during the 1990s. The celebrations began with a 50th Anniversary Tribute to Pearl Harbor in December of 1991.
In June of 1994, a grand celebration in commemoration of D-Day took place, followed by another gala celebration in August of 1995 in remembrance of VJ-Day. Post members Ben Benton, Ed Zelmanski, Bill Kulpa, and Len Piotrowski, with help from the various Commanders who were in office at the time, made up the entertainment committee.
Post survivors representing all the major World War II campaigns showed up, with veteran participation from the Marines, Army, Air Corps, Navy, and Seabees. There was local television coverage, and the program was recognized by the V.F.W. National Department as one of the finest war and remembrance programs in the nation.
Ed Gardner was elected Post Commander for 1995 – 1996. He received the white hat as an All State Commander, and as the Post entered its 50th year, it reached over 100 percent in membership. In February of 1996, Commander-in-Chief Paul Spera visited the Post and was welcomed with a dinner and reception.
Jack Paraventi made All State for his achievement as an outstanding Post Quartermaster and then made All State Commander at the district level. Dave EnDyke, former Post Commander white hat, was recognized as an All State Commander.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Post’s bulletin took first place in the Department’s publishing contest. Editor Ben Benton and his staff, Laura and Bill Kulpa, with help from Ed Bonk, made it possible.
At the end of its 50th year, the Lyskawa Post boasted 720 members.
Since the 1990s, the Post has continued to shine in many areas. It has excelled in hospital work and poppy sales and has participated in numerous veterans’ commemorations, community events, fundraisers for the disadvantaged, and programs for disabled children. For years, the Post was number one throughout the State of Michigan in poppy sales for needy veterans.
For several years, the Post was also the number one V.F.W. Post in the State of Michigan for hospital work. In the 1990s and 2000s, the members raised over $100,000 per year for veterans.
For at least 50 years, the Lyskawa Post participated annually at St. Hedwig Cemetery’s Memorial Day Mass. The Post Honor Guard has done thousands of burials for veterans, including burials at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan, a cemetery administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
Post #7546 has distributed gift baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas to citizens in need every year and has been involved in bicycle safety programs for children. Since the 1960s, on the first Monday in December each year, the Post donated the hall for use by the Alhambra Barcelona Caravan for their Christmas program for disabled children. At one time, between 300 and 400 children were bused in for the special programs. In later years, the numbers declined to approximately 150.
For years, the Post participated in Polish events such as Wigilia with kolędy sing-alongs, as well as Polish Masses. Originally, approximately 95 percent of the membership was of Polish descent. Within the last 15 years, the membership has expanded and now includes other nationalities. As of 2022, of its eight board members, six are Polish.
At one time, the membership was largely Catholic. A Catholic Mass used to be celebrated at the Post each year on the second Sunday in August. A priest from the seminary on Ann Arbor Trail and Telegraph Road celebrated the Mass. For years, it took place in the church at the seminary. Later, they held a field Mass. As more non-Catholic members joined the Post, fewer people attended the Masses, and eventually they were discontinued.
The Post’s Memorial Home was not just used for Post #7546 activities and events. An untold number of dances, parties, banquets, receptions, and celebrations have been held there throughout the years. From 2018 through 2020, the Lyskawa Post was the home of the Polka Booster Club of America, whose members looked forward to their monthly Sunday afternoon dances that were held there, as well as special dances and events. Throughout the years, local ballroom dance clubs also held evening dances at the Lyskawa Post, which was known for its fine wooden dance floor. Many class reunions were also held at the Post throughout the years.
As of late 2021, Starfish Family Services has purchased the building at 6828 N. Waverly Street in Dearborn Heights, with plans to use it for an early education center. Currently, the Post’s membership is meeting at and coordinating programs with members of the Stitt Post in Dearborn Heights. Going forward, the members still plan to support the community.
As of 2022, the Post’s current Commander is Steve Malinowski.
For faithfully serving Detroit’s west side community and for contributing to the good and benefit of Detroit’s Polonia, Post #7546 was honored at the Society’s Fifteenth Annual Opłatek and Crystal Jubilee on Saturday, January 8, 2022, at St. Colette Catholic Church. Present to accept the framed honorarium from the board of directors were several members of Pvt. John Lyskawa’s family.
Pvt. John Lyskawa (January 23, 1912 – August 8, 1944)
The Pvt. John Lyskawa V.F.W. Post #7546 was named after John Lyskawa of Detroit’s west side, a war hero.
John Lyskawa was the firstborn child of Joseph (1884 – 1971) and Josephine (nee Muszynski) Lyskawa (1889 – 1965), who lived on 30th Street on Detroit’s west side. Joseph was 27 and Josephine was 22 when John was born. Both Joseph and Josephine were born in Poland.
John had 12 siblings: Lillian (1913 – 2008), Raymond (1914 – 1985), Henry (1916 – 1965), Eleanor (1918 – 2006), Irene Clara (1919 – 1991), Francis (1921 – 1923), Edward (1923 – 1923), Robert (1924 – 1991), Edmund (1925 – 2004), Regina (1927 – 2012), Richard (1928 – 2006), and Ervin (1930 – 1989). While growing up, John was protective of his siblings. Once, he bought one of his youngest sisters a pair of ice skates when she was a young girl.
John served as a Private First Class in the 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, of the U.S. Army during World War II. He was assigned military service number 36549870. The division was a unit of the Army National Guard during World War I and World War II. The unit has been regarded as the number one American infantry division in the European Theatre of Operations. The Germans nicknamed it “Roosevelt’s SS.” It was involved in 282 days of intense combat from June 1944 through April 1945.
The unit trained in the U.S. for just over two years and then, under the command of Major General Leland Hobbs, from February 22, 1944, through June 1944, it trained in England for the Allied Invasion of Normandy. On August 6, the division relieved the veteran 1st Infantry Division near Mortain in France’s Normandy region. Violent battles ensued between August 7 through August 12, after which Paris was liberated.
It was at Normandy that Pvt. John Lyskawa gave his life for our freedom on Tuesday, August 8, 1944. He was 32 years old. The 30th went on to pursue the enemy across Germany.
For his valor, Pvt. John Lyskawa was awarded a Purple Heart and a World War II Victory Medal.
Pvt. John Lyskawa is buried at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Plot G, Row 14, Grave 17, at Colleville-sur-Mer, Departement du Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France.
- Pvt. John Lyskawa Post #7546 50th Anniversary Book: https://sites.google.com/site/vfw7546/history
- EnDyke, Dave. Informal telephone conversation. (West Bloomfield, MI: November 17, 2021)
- Kesler, Linda. Informal telephone conversation. (West Bloomfield, MI: November 11, 2021)
- Lowe, Lorraine. Informal telephone conversation. (West Bloomfield, MI: November 6, 2021)