Longtime American Legion post commander dies

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Every time he walks into Herb Woodard Hall, Gary Anderson thinks of its namesake with high regard.

One night during a meeting of the American Legion Post 89 officers, Woodard suggested appointing Anderson as vice commander.

That’s a position Anderson held for more than 15 years, and he’s now in his second year as commander of the Seymour post.

He considered it a high honor coming from Woodard, who was post commander for 27 years.

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“Oh, it was great,” Anderson said. “He knew I liked to lead.”

On Wednesday, Woodard died at the age of 92. Anderson was saddened to hear the news.

“I’ve lost a really good friend a really good adviser,” Anderson said. “He was the best commander we ever had. He was the best with finances, and he was a good leader. He was good to everybody, and he knew everybody in the post. There was nobody that he didn’t know there. He was a great man.”

Even though Woodard’s tenure as commander ended in 2006, Anderson said he could still go to him for advice when he assumed that role.

“Anybody that had a problem, they would go talk to Herb. He would always know the answers,” Anderson said. “He was always there for advice. I would always go to Herb … because he knows about everything about the Legion. He was a great friend, and it will be a great loss.”

Woodard was born April 10, 1927, in Jackson County to William and Martha Whitson Woodard.

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed on Shemya Island in the Aleutians. That’s about 300 miles from the Russian coast, Woodard said in an April 26, 2006, story in The Tribune.

“It got about 40 below,” he said of the temperature. “To be 18 years old and be shipped out to a place like that” was quite an experience, he said.

While stationed there, he did construction and mechanical work, mostly on trucks and tanks.

In 1970, he retired after a 20-year career with the Seymour Fire Department. He then worked 15 years for Seymour Community School Corp. as a maintenance man and owned Woodard’s Washer Dryer Service for 25 years.

Woodard served as first vice commander and adjutant of Post 89 before being named post commander.

In the 2006 Tribune article about his career, Woodard said membership at the Legion doubled during his tenure, going from 600 to 1,200. At one point, it was the sixth-largest post in the state.

While the main purpose was to provide a place for military veterans to gather, attend programs and receive assistance, the Legion also did a lot for the community and children’s causes under Woodard’s leadership.

The Legion sponsored the annual Christmas Basket Fund, which is still around today, made sizeable contributions to organizations such as Jackson County United Way and Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, presented scholarships to area students and sponsored American Legion Baseball.

“Youth and veterans, that’s what the main thing is,” Woodard said in The Tribune article.

Post 89 also focused on protecting the flag. That included participating in memorial services, Flag Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs and the V-J Day and Oktoberfest parades. Members also placed flags on veterans’ graves for Memorial Day.

In September 2006, a dedication service was conducted to name Post 89’s annex on West Second Street after Woodard in gratitude for his service to the organization.

The renaming was the idea of Jack Schrader, who replaced Woodard as post commander earlier that year.

“Four months ago when I took over as commander, I got to thinking right away what I could do to honor Mr. Woodard,” Schrader said in a Sept. 28, 2006, story in The Tribune. “I couldn’t name the post after him because he’s not deceased. He’s still kicking.”

During the ceremony, Schrader commended Woodard for making the post what it is, including bringing it out of bankruptcy in the earlier days.

“I’m honored and proud to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Woodard,” Schrader said.

While speaking during the service, Woodard said he didn’t expect the annex to be named after him but considered it “a very big honor.”

Member Bob Luenebrink stood up and expressed his gratitude for Woodard’s service, saying he sacrificed over and over to keep the post running in the best interest of all members.

“My hat’s off to you, commander,” Luenebrink said. “I’ve got lot of respect for you, sir.”

In October 2006, Woodard was chosen as grand marshal of the Seymour Oktoberfest parade.

A year later, Marty Castner, the national commander of the American Legion at the time, and other Legion representatives visited Post 89 to present the Distinguished Service Award to Woodard. That’s the highest award given to a Legionnaire in the state. People from eight posts attended the ceremony.

Perhaps Post 89 member Gladys Jones said it best during the Herb Woodard Hall dedication service in 2006.

“He has been over this place for 27 years as commander, and everybody thinks a lot of him,” she said. “He was down here almost 24 hours a day, and sometimes, he wouldn’t get home in enough time to get his shoes off and they’d call him back. There won’t be another one take his place like he was.”

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Herbert Eugene Woodard, 92, of Seymour died Wednesday.

He served in the U.S. Army in World War II and later retired from the Seymour Fire Department before working for Seymour Community School Corp. as a maintenance man and owning Woodard’s Washer Dryer Service. He also was commander of American Legion Post 89 in Seymour for 27 years.

The funeral service will be at 1 p.m. today at Burkholder Chapel of Thorne-George Family Funeral Homes, 419 N. Chestnut St., Seymour. Interment and military honors will follow at Riverview Cemetery in Seymour.

Contributions may be made to First United Methodist Church, Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health or Schneck Hospice at the funeral home.

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