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Board of directors meets at St. Louis convention

Thursday, June 25, 1 p.m.
St. Louis Marriott West,
St. Louis MO

The board of directors of the 99th Infantry Division Association met June 25, during the 60th annual convention at the St. Louis Marriott West, St. Louis MO.

Those attending were B.O. Wilkins, Herb Knapp, Harry McCracken, Jesse Coulter, Glenn Bronson, John Vasa, H.C. Sullivan, Kent Stanger, Phil Benefiel, Harry Clifton, J.R. McIlroy, Arnold Taylor and Donna Bernhardt.

The meeting was called to order by President B.O. Wilkins.

Executive director Donna Bernhardt had the roll call of directors.

Wilkins told the board he had had a busy year as president. Chaplain Joe Johnson resigned his position and Wilkins appointed Arnold Taylor to replace him.

Wilkins and Howard Bowers represented the 99th at a dedication ceremony at Elsenborn in December. They were the only two Americans veterans in attendance at the dedication of a monument to the veterans of five countries who participated in the Elsenborn Ridge battle.

In April, Wilkins was in Pittsburgh PA, for a ceremony in which the 99th’s Checkerboard flag was furled and cased for its trip to the new headquarters at Fort Dix NJ. He and Archives Chairman Harry McCracken saw the 99th Monument to be placed at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall at Pittsburgh. Wilkins reported it is not the soldier statue that has been discussed for many years, but the 99th shield. “It signifies the 99th better than the soldier,” Wilkins concluded.

Treasurer J.R. McIlroy asked the board to approve a reimbursement of $1,000 for travel expenses for these trips. The motion was approved.

Wilkins said he had just returned from a tour to Normandy and the Ardennes through Battlefield Tours Inc.

McIlroy reported the association has $77,000 in its account. No dues notices have been sent in 2008, so the financial report showed a significant decrease in income.

McIlroy, chairman of the nominating committee, had the following recommendations – Max Norris, vice president; and three directors, Al Goldstein to serve the remainder of Taylor’s term (two years) on the board, and Tim Nugent and John Ingram to fill three-year terms.

Bernhardt presented a membership report, saying there are 1,753 current members including 183 widows and 231 associates. There were 14 new members for the year.

Bernhardt also gave the report for the Kansas City convention. Attendance was down from the previous year with 246 present. She also reported a loss of $7,250.

The St. Louis convention report showed a total registration of 214, of which approximately 80 were veterans.

McIlroy, representing the site selection committee, reminded the board it previously had decided to keep the conventions in the Midwest. Recommendations for 2010 were Memphis TN, with an alternate site of Louisville KY.

Glenn Bronson urged the group to consider a reunion in the Corning NY, area, but most agreed it was too far. Wilkins recommended mini-reunions at any time.

The planning committee, which had met briefly prior to the board meeting, recommended tabling any decisions until 2010. The consensus was to plan another convention for next year, then consider the options at that time.

John Vasa suggested remaining funds from the general account be used to finance mini-reunions instead of national conventions. Most agreed there would have to be stringent guidelines with this option and that without any convention management it may not work.

Old business

In 2008, the association approved a plan to digitize past issues of the Checkerboard at the urging of member Donald Mehus. An allocation of $2,600 was set aside for the project but no other action was taken. Mehus presented a vague proposal that included allowing the Wisconsin Historical Society to provide the digitization service and a company in Boston to put the pages on a website.

Eric Meyer, son of the late Bill Meyer and professor of journalism and communication at the University of Illinois, was contacted by President Wilkins asking for his input about the project. Meyer, who is intimately familiar with this kind of work, detected no specifics as to what the Wisconsin Historical Society or the Boston company would provide. Meyer recommended the association contact Heritage Microfilm, a firm that provides this service for many U.S. newspapers, producing products like the Checkerboard on the 99th Infantry Division website. 

Heritage Microfilm’s proposal called for digitizing the entire content of the Checkerboard, from World War II to present. The images will be scanned from microfilm, run through an OCR process that allows images to be text-searched, and placed on a branded website. The website will be maintained by Heritage Microfilm at no cost to the association and the company will provide access to this website on the association’s website.

The cost for the service is $450. The project was approved.

The board discussed the “family and friends” association that was scheduled to host an organizational meeting at the St. Louis convention.

The purpose of the new group is to perpetuate the memory of the 99th Infantry Division veterans after the dissolution of the current association.

There was some discussion about the current association’s role in the new organization. The board decided to acknowledge and approve the formation of the new organization, but stressed the need to keep it separate from the current association.

In an official capacity, legal adviser Phil Benefiel was asked for his opinion. He said the board could condone the purpose and formation of the group but it was up to the new organization to file the necessary forms with the IRS for tax-exempt status.

After extensive discussion, the board approved a motion to sanction the formation of an organization of friends of the 99th to perpetuate the memory of the 99th Infantry Division. It was stressed that funds from the current association would not be spent on the new organization.

New business

Vice President Herb Knapp asked how many members of the association were in the Battle of the Bulge. He suggested a survey be put in the Checkerboard and that those members be given life membership in the 99th Infantry Division Association. No action was taken.

Sergeant-at-Arms Jesse Coulter reported Sergeant-at-Arms Howard Bowers was not able to attend the St. Louis convention and asked that Mark Mueller be appointed to help with flag duties for the week. The appointment was approved.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:30 p.m.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the convention, Max Norris declined to accept the nomination of president of the association.

As noted on the front page of this issue, the alternate site of Louisville KY, has been selected as the site of the 2010 convention.

Last modified Feb. 12, 2010

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