CONNEAUT — The American Legion Cowle Post 151 celebrated its centennial on Friday, along with the completion of renovations to the posts social space and rental room.

The Cowle Post was founded in 1921. Named after Harland and Wayland Cowle, the post is located on Broad Street in Conneaut.

American Legion Department of Ohio Commander Jean Wilson was present at the event. Wilson, a Conneaut native, said she spent a significant amount of time at the post when she was growing up, and she has a special connection to it.

Wilson said she has family members who still live in Conneaut, and she tries to get back to the city as much as she can.

“It’s just a real honor for me to be here tonight and to be part of the celebration, 100 years for this American Legion,” Wilson said. “It’s just perfect. It’s going to be something that I remember for the rest of my life.”

“I know I’m never going to forget it,” Cowle Post Commander Larry Latva said.

Wilson said the post applied for its temporary charter in 1919, the same year the American Legion itself was founded.

Wilson is the first woman to be Department of Ohio Commander. She said she felt she brought a different perspective to the job.

“Even though we’re all veterans, some of us have a different outlook, how we want our American Legion to look,” Wilson said. “For me, I want it to be welcoming to everybody, regardless of sex, religion, whatever. When we all work together, we can accomplish a whole lot more than when we have too many different factions.”

As part of the celebration of the post’s centennial, a ribbon cutting took place, celebrating the completion of the renovations.

Latva said the renovations were made due to COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, the post was informed that their social room, with a usual allowed occupancy of 85, would be limited to 30 percent capacity because of COVID-19, he said.

“Think about it,” he said. “We could have never survived as a post with that going on.”

The renovations moved the post’s social area to a larger room that was previously used for rentals, and renovated the former social area into a rental space.

In a speech at the event, Latva praised the executive team and the staff at the post for their work that was put into the renovations, the various people who did the work on the building and the people who kept it running during COVID-19.

“We did a lot to this old building,” Latva said.

Latva presented Wilson with a donation for charity and a framed article about Wilson becoming Ohio Department Commander. The Post Auxiliary also gave Wilson a charity donation.

Department commanders get to chose special projects to raise funds for. Wilson chose suicide prevention, awareness and education. Wilson is working with Save A Warrior, an Ohio-based charity that helps active duty military, veterans and first responders, according to the organizations website.

“What I love, what I absolutely love about Save A Warrior is they’re based right here in Ohio,” Wilson said. “So every dime we raise for Save A Warrior stays right here in Ohio. It’s not going to some headquarters, paying some fancy rent some place. It goes right here.”  

Wilson said the fundraising is being done by the American Legion, the Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion are raising the money, not her. “So far, to date, since July 11, we have raised over $21,000,” Wilson said. Her fundraising goal for the year is $50,000.

After the presentations, Wilson gave a brief speech.

“I am honored and humbled to be here tonight,” Wilson said. “I have a lot of great memories of this post.”

The Cowle Post has a rich history of serving both the American Legion and the Conneaut community, Wilson said. She said she is the post still has its honor guard and burial detail. “To me, that’s one of the most important things you can do, is give a veteran a proper burial,” Wilson said.

Wilson thanked Latva for the invitation.

“It meant the world to me to come back to my hometown and be here at this American Legion, celebrating a 100th birthday,” Wilson said. “It means a lot to me. I know you have a great Legion post, an outstanding Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.”

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