EVERETT — They were trained as warriors, but Everett American Legion members also had a big financial battle following their service to the nation.
After years of disappointments, the post finally has set up shop in a new home with a new name, a new charter and renewed enthusiasm.
American Legion Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson Post 6 formally opened its doors Friday night to the applause of members, politicians, Legion dignitaries and Peter Jackson, the son of the late U.S. senator from Everett. A band played light rock music.
“We are extremely proud we’re back in the city of Everett again,” said George Brown, commander of the post and club, which is at 1212 California St.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen secured an American flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for the post, and the club soon will have a photograph of the Bangor-based submarine named for the late senator.
There was hoopla aplenty Friday, but the road back to becoming a vibrant patriotic service organization and acquiring a new home was long and bumpy.
The club sold its building in downtown Everett in 2001 because of declining membership and financial problems. It paid some bills and banked the rest of the sale proceeds with the hope of starting anew at another building.
Then a trusted member, Richard Charles Ekstedt, systematically drained the club’s account, stealing more than $370,000 and leaving members with a scant $36.40.
That was the low point.
Ekstedt was charged with theft in 2005 and later pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to prison. The post was left with the chore of rising from the ashes. It did.
“I take great pride in what we accomplished and being a part of Post 6 and the people I’ve met here,” said Rich Goodpasture, post financial officer and the manager of the new post club.
Goodpasture, a Vietnam vet, became a member two years ago. Also the owner of a south Everett sports bar, Goodpasture put his expertise to work on finding a location and then setting up and running a club.
He also used his expertise as a former certified public accountant to manage the group’s finances, and he helped set up internal controls to make sure nobody can abscond with post money again.
The Everett Elks Club offered free use of its space to the fellow service group, and now the American Legion is paying the Elks back. Elks members recently closed their building on Rucker Avenue because of a new development on that block, and they will be welcomed at the nearby Legion club, Post 6 adjutant Kal Leichtman said.
Leichtman said his organization is now financially solvent, and membership is growing rapidly.
It had 340 members in 2005, and the number has mushroomed to 680 and rising, Leichtman said. The club is shooting for a membership of 1,000 by the end of the year, Brown added.
“When word got out that we have changed the name to Henry M. ‘Scoop’ Jackson, good things began to happen,” Brown said. “Scoop was Everett’s favorite son.”
The late senator, an Everett native who ran for president, died in 1983. He was known for his staunch support of a strong military, and he was the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee when he died.
He started his political career as Snohomish County prosecuting attorney before going to the U.S. House of Representatives and then the Senate.
Revival of the Everett Legion post will let members do more to help veterans in need, hand out student scholarships and support youth programs, which it traditionally has done.
It cost the post about $25,000 to fully equip and remodel the club, a former bar, Goodpasture said.
Some new fixtures and equipment were acquired. There’s new wall paneling. Pictures depict military themes, and one cherished photo includes Helen Jackson, Scoop’s widow, with a portrait of the senator in the background.
A lot of the refurbishing work was done by Legion members.
“It became a labor of love,” Leichtman said.
Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or email@example.com.