Cynthia Walker, director of the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, examines an historical document, part of an exhibit honoring veterans and marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion and Webber-Lefebvre Post 74. (Tammy Wells photo)

KENNEBUNK – Harold A. Webber was killed during the Battle of the Argonne Forest that waged from Sept. 26 to Nov. 11, 1918. He was the first Kennebunk casualty of World War I. He was 23 years old, and had married in April of that year.

Edward Lefebvre enlisted in the U.S., Army in 1940, before the United States entered World War II, and served in the Army Air Force. Captured, he died on May 3, 1942 as a prisoner of the Japanese Army in what is called the Bataan Death March.

Their names are familiar to Kennebunk residents and especially those involved with the local post of the American Legion, which is named for the two men.

The Webber-Lefebvre Post 74 American Legion is marking its centennial this year, as is the American Legion itself, which was founded in Paris on March 15, 1919.

To honor the founding, there will be a special public gathering from noon to 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 10 at the Brick Store Museum, which is hosting an exhibit, in collaboration with the Webber-Lefebvre Post, to mark the 100th anniversary.

The American Legion’s focus is on service to veterans, those currently serving in the military and community.

Now, they are being honored.

Post 74 member Bob LeClercq, a Vietnam War veteran, and some others pored over scrapbooks and letters and photographs, choosing a variety of items to display. Folks in the neighborhood contributed military headgear worn in the teens and 1920s, LeClercq said .

There is more, too, including bright posters, drawn by a young Brenda Freeman as the local schools marked Poppy Day in the 1950s.

Brian McBride’s first memory of the local American Legion post comes from his childhood, when the post was located on High Street.

“They used to have a carnival in the summer, it was a big thing,” said McBride. “ My aunt would give me dimes so I could go.”

Over the years, there were dozens of hunter’s breakfasts, talent shows, suppers and more, all hosted by the Legion.

At the Brick Store Museum, director Cynthia Walker has a favorite story about the Webber-Lefebvre Post 74 – about the Howitzer at the War Memorial across the street from the museum.

In 1924, Walker related, an Act of Congress authorized the distribution of enemy artillery captured in World War I to be distributed as war memorials for American cities and towns. Kennebunk applied, but was rejected.

Four years later, veterans of Post 74 became aware that there were 20 German Howitzers that had been placed with the Smithsonian Museum and were stored on the grounds of the National War College. Legion members appealed to the Smithsonian, which donated one to the Legion. The 5,000-pound Howitzer arrived on a rail car in August, 1928.

Being patriotic folks, at the beginning of World War II, members of Post 74 donated the big gun to the war scrap metal effort and it was taken away by a Biddeford dealer. But he didn’t have the tools to dismantle the Howitzer, so the story goes, and so it languished in a junkyard until 1947, when it was returned to Kennebunk. In 1977, the citizens of Kennebunk agreed to accept it from Post 74 and was placed at the War Memorial, where it remains.

Walker noted the special gathering is free and open to the public, as well as regional veterans, to celebrate their service and talk with Post 74 members.

“The Webber-Lefebvre, Post 74 supports local community and veterans’ programs such as funding a scholarship program for Kennebunk High School seniors, placing flags on veterans’ graves, donating to local charities and organizing Memorial Day activities,” Walker pointed out.

McBride, a U.S. Navy veteran, was discharged in 1963, and could have joined the post then, but waited a few years.

“One of my uncles had been involved since the end of World War II and his father before him, and he said to me “come see what its all about.” McBride did – and has been a staunch supporter for the past 37 years.

“I’m a Post 74 fan,” he said.

McBride estimated the post has about 80 members these days, and hopes more veterans will consider joining. He said prospective members are invited to drop by Post 74 at 7 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month and check it out. The post is at 15 Water St.

The Brick Store Museum is at 117 Main St. The Post 74 exhibit runs through Dec. 31.

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