The last man
WEIRTON – Milton Fabianich was 17 years old when he volunteered for the U.S. Army during World War II.
“I was still in high school but I quit and told the recruiters I was really 18. I never got my high school diploma but I wanted to do my share,” Fabianich related Sunday night during the annual Last Man’s Club of Weirton dinner at the American Legion Post 10.
It was the second year for Fabianich to preside over the meeting where he is the sole remaining living member of the club.
“Johnnie Moore died two years ago and now it is just me. I knew him since 1950 and I miss him. There is no joy in being the last man. So many friends have gone on before me. But I will toast the 95 men who were members of the club until I am gone,” the 87-year old Fabianich declared after he made the traditional toast.
“I remember most of the guys who were in the club and special little stories about them. They were my friends and colleagues,” declared Fabianich.
He then read the 95 names of the club members who have died.
Fabianich was joined by three friends for the dinner at the American Legion Post 10 Sunday including 95-year old Guy Ceraolo of Weirton.
“I don’t know why I never joined the Last Man’s Club. I guess I never really thought about it. But I will be here for Milton as long as I am around,” Ceraolo promised.
Vic Folden, commander of Post 10 and Weirton Ward 4 Councilman George Ash, both Vietnam War veterans, joined Fabianich at the table.
“I still consider you members of the Greatest Generation,” Folden told Fabianich and Ceraolo.
“It all started in 1956 when Robert Adams and Norman Gracie started the World War II Last Man’s Club. They got the idea from John Hertnick who had started the World War I Last Man’s Club. Bob Adams was the first commandant of our club but he died in 1959,” related Fabianich.
“When they organized the club a signup sheet was placed at the American Legion hall and the Veterans of Foreign Wars downtown for 60 days. You had to bring your honorable discharge papers in when you signed up,” Fabianich said.
Folden also asked Fabianich to present the Last Man’s Club wreath on Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial Wall.
“I want to thank the Post 10 Ladies Auxiliary for making a great dinner and taking care of us tonight,” added Fabianich.
“We told Milt we will host this dinner as long as he is here which I hope is for a very long time,” Ladies Auxiliary President Shirley Brecht said.
And following the dinner Fabianich reflected on his life that included serving as a military policeman in the Third Army at the War Crimes Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany following World War II.
“We were initially serving under Gen. George Patton who always insisted on his men wearing clean uniforms no matter what the conditions were. We were responsible for moving armored vehicles around and then later I served under General Telford Taylor at Nuremberg,” Fabianich said.
“I came home in 1946 and went back to my job in Weirton Steel. That’s where I met my wife. We will be married 67 years later this year,” recalled Fabianich.
“Guy was also in the Third Army but he is older and went to the war before I did,” Fabianich said.
“I was in Patton’s 41st Armored Infantry. We were called ‘Hell on Wheels’ But I was captured by the Germans near the Elbe River and spent a month in a prisoner of war camp before the Russians liberated us,” remarked Ceraolo.
“I am glad to be here with Milt. I congratulate you,” added Ceraolo.
“I consider you my brother,” Fabianich told Ceraolo.
“Next year’s Last Man’s Club dinner will be held the Sunday preceding the Sunday before Memorial Day. I will call all of you and hope you can join me,” stated Fabianich.
A final silent toast to Fabianich and the Last Man’s Club and the three men parted with handshakes and hugs from the members of the Ladies Auxiliary.
“We always hug our veterans,” said Brecht.
(Gossett can be contacted at email@example.com)