Theft rocks Legion

  • By Scott North and Jennifer Warnick / Herald Writers
  • Monday, March 14, 2005 9:00pm
  • Local NewsLocal news

EVERETT – An Everett veterans group that has sacrificed for decades on behalf of the community is reeling after learning nearly $400,000 has been pilfered from its bank accounts.

Worse, the suspected thief is a longtime member of the group.

“It’s devastating,” said George Brown, commander at the Earl Faulkner American Legion Post 6.

The Everett-based post is now destitute and there are doubts about its ability to continue funding programs aimed at everything from helping veterans to youth sports to academic competitions.

“We spend lots of money for the children and youth of our community, as well as our veterans,” Brown said.

Richard Charles Ekstedt, 58, of Marysville, the post’s adjutant, was arrested Sunday.

Ekstedt appeared briefly Monday in Everett District Court, where his bail was set at $5,000. He is being investigated on suspicion of first-degree theft. No charges have been filed.

Ekstedt had access to the post’s bank account. Early this month he wrote Brown, saying he had lost nearly $400,000 of the group’s money gambling, according to court papers.

Marysville police investigated the losses because most of the money was withdrawn from a bank branch there.

In December 2001, the organization deposited $370,000 in the bank. The money came from selling the downtown Everett building where it had met for 55 years. By July 2004, the post’s account had dwindled to just $36.18, according to court papers.

Local historian David Dilgard called the theft a nasty setback. Service groups don’t often call attention to themselves, but quietly and consistently give back to the community, he said.

“With service clubs that have given as much as the Legion, most of the community has a tendency to take them for granted after a while,” Dilgard said. “You just expect them to be there, and the good work they do doesn’t get a lot of publicity or headlines.”

The Everett post was founded in 1919 by veterans of World War I. It is named in honor of Earl Faulkner, who died in June 1918 in the Battle of Chateau-Thierry in France. He was decorated posthumously for his bravery.

Since its creation, the post has provided support and services to not only veterans, but to the larger community.

The local post, as part of the national organization, helps provide college scholarships and sponsors a high school oratorical contest.

It also sponsors American Legion Baseball, a nationwide youth baseball program that allows many high school players to hone their skills in the summer.

Everett High School baseball coach Ron Burdett said it would be devastating to lose the Legion baseball program, in which more than half of his players participate.

“As a coach, I want my players to do some kind of baseball, something during the summer,” Burdett said. “This gives them the option to play some place.”

Select teams cost up to $2,500 for a player to join, but the Legion’s league charges $400, Burdett said.

“This is an opportunity for quite a few kids to play,” he said. “I think there’s a lot at risk.”

Locally, the group’s most visible and expansive projects is the American Legion Golf Course and Memorial Park in north Everett.

The Legion donated the land to the city in 1935. At the time it was 140 acres of second-growth trees and stumps. In addition to the land, the group donated $10,000 for the project, which was to honor lost soldiers.

Before the end of that year, 100 men – many of them veterans – went to work building six tennis courts, a baseball diamond and the golf course.

There are now about 300 members at the legion post, which has been meeting as guests at the Elks Club for the past three years, Brown said.

When they were taking a last walk through their building three years ago, post members discovered a time capsule. Inside the old artillery shell were messages from members who called themselves the Last Man’s Club. All were survivors of the Battle of Chateau-Thierry.

Brown and Ekstedt were together when the time capsule was discovered.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” he said.

Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or

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