WEIRTON - Milton Fabianich quietly read 94 names Sunday evening marking the second year he remained the last living member of the Weirton Last Man's Club.
"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.
THE LAST MAN — Milton Fabianich, the commandant and final living member of the Weirton Last Man’s Club makes final arrangements Sunday night at the annual dinner at the American Legion Post 10 Hall. The dinner is hosted every year by the Post 10 Ladies Auxiliary. -- Dave Gossett
Fabianich became the final member of the club last year following the death of John Moore.
"I was hoping Johnny Moore would still be here with me. I had no idea Johnny was so ill last year. We were on the telephone planning the dinner and I learned later he was in a wheel chair. When he passed away I was shocked," said Fabianich.
"There is no joy in being the last man. So many friends have gone on before me. But I will toast the 94 men who were members of the club until I am gone," the 85-year-old Fabianich declared after he made the traditional toast.
Fabianich was joined by three friends for the dinner at the American Legion Post 10 Sunday including 94-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 also sat at the table and toasted the 94 late members of the Last Man's Club.
"We made it through another year. And I still think you are the greatest generation ever. I first met Milt last year. It has been a pleasure to know him. It is truly an honor to be with Milt and Guy. You guys paved the way for the rest of the veterans. My family has had a relative in the military since the Continental Army and now my grandson is in the Marines. Thank you for your service and God willing we are all here next year," Folden remarked.
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 66 years later this year," recalled Fabianich.
"How did you end up marrying a woman from Mingo Junction? How did you ever meet her?" asked Ceraolo.
"Eva was a tin flopper in the mill. I was running a buggy moving the material and had to stop for a minute and she started talking to me. Two hundred women in the mill and she was the only one who talked to me. We got married and have been together ever since," explained 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 on May 18. It is always the Sunday preceding the Sunday before Memorial Day. I will call all of you and hope you can join me," stated Fabianich.
Following a final silent toast to Fabianich and the Last Man's Club, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org)