Kantrud, Wagner renowned WWI vets [UPDATED]Published 4:02am Monday, November 11, 2013 Updated 6:12am Monday, November 11, 2013
Those of us growing up in Fergus Falls during the 1950s and 1960s were fortunate to witness World War I veterans Guss Kantrud and George Wagner as leaders in our community.
These men, and other World War I vets, will be among those remembered this year on Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is commemorated on the day that World War I ended, on Nov. 11, 1918.
This special day for veterans was known as Armistice Day until 1954 when President Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower signed legislation changing the name to Veterans Day.
Kantrud was a leader in the founding of Fergus Falls VFW Post 612 and for many years served as quarter master.
He and Wagner were members of the Barracks of World War I, an organization assisting veterans with hospitalization, pensions and other well-deserved assistance.
It was a priority for Kantrud, an employee of Ford Motors, and Wagner, owner of a surplus store in downtown Fergus Falls, to attend Barracks gatherings on the local, district and state levels.
Kantrud and Wagner received special recognition when Fergus Falls hosted the state VFW convention in the early 1970s.
Before the convention, I had the privilege of interviewing Kantrud for the first of a four-part series in the Daily Journal.
Also interviewed were World War II veteran Myron Broschat, Joe Robertson who fought during the Korean War and Paul Sailer who served in Vietnam.
“My basic training for World War I was all of two and a half weeks,” said Kantrud. “Then it was off to Europe. I didn’t even learn how to maneuver a grenade until I hit the trenches and asked a fellow soldier.”
Kantrud was a quiet and humble man who never thought of himself as a war hero. Neither did Wagner who was more outgoing and who served as MC at Barracks of World War I banquets.
Wagner loved local athletics in Fergus Falls, especially American Legion baseball. When Legion baseball fundraisers were organized, Wagner was among the first to volunteer his services.
Simply put, Kantrud and Wagner were true Americans who were proud to have served their country. Kantrud was afflicted with arthritis, but never complained.
His arthritis was traced back to the days and nights during World War I when he fought from the cold and wet trenches in France.
These two Fergus Falls veterans were indeed salt of the earth type guys.
It was a real honor for me to have known each of them.
Elton sings praises of Campion
Former Fergus Falls Otter football player, Minnesota Gopher player and Otter football coach Rocky Elton is among those praising Fergus native and current Gopher lineman Josh Campion.
Elton, a 1951 FFHS grad, played for the Gophers as a lineman from 1951 to 1954 and was head football coach for the Otters from 1958 to 1962. He’s retired and currently lives in the Twin Cities.
“I’ve watched Campion on every play from scrimmage,” said Elton, “and I play the old game of grading his performance.”
Elton has five areas of critique: One point for getting to the line of scrimmage and with the proper split and stance, two points for getting off on the count and making contact with his opponent, three points for a stalemate and/or not getting shucked, four points for moving his man off the line or keeping contact in pass protection and five points for a pancake on a running play, putting his man on his back.
“Off side is a minus 5, clipping a minus 5 and holding a minus 5,” said Elton. “He’s had none of the last three.
“I’m so happy for him and wish him all the success. Josh is an outstanding representative from Fergus Falls. He has worn the Maroon and Gold both for the Otters and the Gophers. Eventually he’ll bleed Maroon and Gold just as I do.”