Eugene Grafius American Legion Post 104

The American Legion and how it evolved

The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, servicemembers and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. This served a two fold purpose: by giving the veterans a place to gather and to as well as forming a united front to for medical care and job opportunities for the veterans. Membership swiftly grew to over 1 million, and local posts sprang up across the country. Today, membership stands at nearly 2 million in more than 13,000 posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments: one each for the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.

Eugene Grafius American Legion Post 104

Montoursville organized their American Legion Post #104 largely through the efforts of George Champion and Peter Lehman. The meetings were held in a hall at Broad Street that previously was used as the headquarters for the Montoursville Board at the first meeting. There were 111 members and Mr. Lehman was elected as their commander. Post was called "Loyalsock". In the Spring of 1920 Eugene Grafius Post #104 was organized as an unincorporated association. On January 18, 1940, an application for Articles of Incorporation to be called Eugene Grafius Post 104.

Since its inception. the American legion Post #104 has played an important part with the Grafius family. Eugene’s youngest sister, Florence married a World War One veteran, Peter Lundy, who was a member of the Legion Post and was elected commander in 1923. ln 1937 the Post was listed in the city directory as being located at 264 Broad Street. The Post then moved to temporary quarters in 1940 to 109 N. Montour Street. Eugene’s oldest brother, William, had four sons who served in World War Two between 1942 and 1945. At the end of World War Two the four sons returned home and joined Post 104. Around 1947 the Post moved to S. Mill Street along Loyalsock Creek in a building that used to be the Seaside Hotel. In the early days this hotel was a popular gathering spot for the rivermen and raftsmen. In 1950, one of the sons. Thomas was elected commander of Post #104. Two years later the Post built a permanent headquarters at 1686 (now 1312) Broad across from the Montoursville Cemetery. In 1953 Thomas's older brother. William James Gratins. was elected commander. He was elected commander again in 1954 and 1955. There were five sisters who also joined the Legion's Auxiliary (Katheryn Dieffenbacher, Jane Neece, Charlotte Pittenger, JoAnn Hamm and Rachel Boyles) and several of their husbands joined the Legion as well. Three of the brothers became life members (Thomas, Daniel, and Jerome) which might be a record for any American Legion Post. Florence Grafius was a charter member of the Auxiliary, being one of Montoursville’s first Gold Star Mothers. After the war she was invited to sail to France on behalf of the War department behalf of the War department. When their ship arrived at the site where the U.S.S. Ticonderoga sank, a wreath was thrown into the ocean after a brief ceremony. This year (1998) marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Eugene Grafius.

We will never know what Eugene might have offered in life or what type of family man he might have become or what great things his children might have accomplished. What we do know is that his name lives on through the American Legion Post #104 and it has been a family to hundreds of veterans for several wars over the past nearly 100 years. The members of the Post have been a positive influence to the community through civic deeds and they have enabled numerous students to pursue higher education from the various scholarships they receive through Post #104.

The story of Eugene Grafius

Eugene Grafius was born October 26, 1896 in Montoursville Pennsylvania, one of ten children born to Van and Florence Grafius.  The family lived on Jordan Avenue, not far from where the railroad tracks crossed Loyalsock Avenue.  Eugene attended the Montoursville public schools, helping with the family chores when he came home from school.  He played for the Montoursville Warrior Baseball team and later played on several city and county teams.

When Eugene finished high school around 1916, World War One was already in progress in Europe. Eugene joined the United States Navy on May 15 1918 and soon became a Seaman 2nd Class aboard the U.S.S Ticonderoga. On September 5, 1918, the U.S.S. Ticonderoga docked at Norfolk, Virginia to load its cargo of horses and Army supplies. On the morning of September 29, 1918, the Ticonderoga developed engine trouble and dropped behind the rest of the convoy it was a member of heading toward a port in France called the Gironade estuary. They were 1700 miles off the Atlantic coast, just halfway to their destination and at a point of no return. The following morning, the USS Ticonderoga had gone to its watery grave with 213 sailors and soldiers on board due to an encounter with a German submarine (U-152). Eugene, was among those missing from the ship and his body was never recovered.

A month later on November 11, Germany surrendered and peace was declared. Subsequently, the US. struck the Ticonderoga from their list. This ship was the third to be called the Ticonderoga during the wars history and it wasn't until 1943 that the name was reinstated for an aircraft carrier in World War Two.

In 1920 a movement was started to change the name of the Post to a more personal name to pay tribute to the memory of a comrade. Names were submitted and after much discussion they decided to name the Post after Seaman Eugene Grafius.


Note: the above story contains excerpts from "A Point of No Return - The Eugene Grafius Story" by H. Joseph Grafius March 8, 1998. If you want to read the entire story, see (a lengthy document) and scroll towards the bottom to find this story.