HISTORY OF OUR COUNCIL 1912-2012
In 1912 a group of Catholic laymen in the area of Wappingers Falls, conceived the idea of forming a Council of the Knights of Columbus within the environs of the Village. These men, who had previously been members of Florentine Council in Poughkeepsie, were leaders of the Church in St. Mary’s Parish and in the life of the community. Steps were taken to acquire enough new members to apply for the exemplification of the Degrees of the Order and later their Charter. The men primarily responsible for the establishment of the Knights of Columbus were John VI. McDonald, Henry J. Parkinson, Joseph E. Lyons, James S. Evans, Patrick J. Macklin, and Edward M. Drake. They were joined by many other men together they numbered fifty five.
On June 16, 1912, the then Supreme Knight, James A. Flaherty, granted Charter No. 1646 to the new Council. The Major Degree, the first for Wappingers Council, was held in St. Mary’s School and following this Degree, Edward M. Drake, was appointed the first Grand Knight of the Council. The first Chaplain, a charter member, was Father Charles F. Reed, Pastor of St. Mary’s Church. The first Financial Secretary of the Council was Henry J. Parkinson. The first Advocate of the Council who served until his death in 1962 was Judge Joseph E. Lyons.
It was during these early days that Wappingers Council hosted a meeting of the Hudson Valley Chapter on September 24, 1916. The minutes of the Chapter indicate that the Grand Knight of Wappingers Council, James S. Evans, introduced the guest for the day, the Supreme Secretary of the Knights of Columbus, William J. McGinley, who spoke at length on the insurance program of the Order. Edward M. Drake, at this time, was serving as the first Historian of the Hudson Valley Chapter. James S. Evans was the first elected Grand Knight of the Council, serving from 1913 to 1916, again from 1922 to 1924 and still again in 1929-30.
The first meetings of the Council in Wappingers Falls were conducted in Henry Parkinson’s store, which was located at 54 West Main Street. This is presently the home of Past Grand Knight Dominic Napoleon. After a period of three months, the new Council moved to the old Turner building, which is presently 13 East Main Street. In 1915 the Council purchased a building at 64 West Main Street from John L. Hughes. This building served the Council as a meeting place until it was sold in 1964.
The first major social event of the Council was a formal ball held in 1913 in the old Academy of Music Hall, which in recent years has been the site of the Academy Theatre. This ball was also the first affair to be held in this Hall. It was also the scene of bazaars during the early years of the Council.
In 1914, the first members of the Council traveled to New York City to take the honors of the Fourth Degree. These Knights were Raymond A. Bain and Joseph F, Kelly.
It was in these early years that Brother Nick Quigley, presently the oldest living member of Wappingers Council, was elected a Council Trustee on April 17, 1916. The minutes of the Council, at that time, show that the Council Treasury had a total amount of $22.89 which was broken down into a death benefit fund of $5.14, a general fund of $12.75 and a special fund of $ 5.00.
During the First World War, Wappingers Council was active in supporting the servicemen’s welfare. Each of the members was assessed $2.00 for the War Camp Fund. In 1920, the work of the Council was recognized when James S, Evans was appointed District Deputy of the local district. Mr. Evans who had served his Church, his Council, his community and his district, has left an indelible mark upon all his endeavors such that one of the schools in the Wappingers School District has been named after him.
All of those who brought about the initiation of Wappingers Council and many of their successors have passed away, but their influence has carried down through the years.
The 1920’s also saw the membership of the Council rise to over 200. Renovations were undertaken to the Council Hall. A bid was received from John J. O’Hearn, a member of the Council, for plumbing work to be installed in the meeting rooms of the Council and in the tenant’s quarters that were a part of the building.
During the same time frame, Wappingers Council may have achieved a first. The Council Athletic Chairman, the late Brother Charles Leroy, scheduled a baseball game between the Wappingers Knights and the local Masonic Lodge. A field day was also held at about the same time. Father John T. Kynes, Pastor of St. Mary’s and Chaplain of the Council, donated a gold piece to be raffled. Father Hynes had succeeded Father James A. Corridan as Council Chaplain. A parade and dance were also held as a part of the field day in conjunction with the Marconi Society. It was reported at a subsequent meeting of the Council that a total profit of $438.35 was realized on the field day.
In 1929 along came the Nation’s crash and during the 1930’s the membership in the whole order dropped considerably. Wappingers Council membership fell to 89 members during these years. The remaining members of the Council worked diligently to keep alive the spark of Columbianism in Wappingers Falls. It was during these hard years that such men as Joseph A. Fries, E. Nestor Kelly, Raymond A. Bain, William B. Napoleon, William F. Sanders, Richard Downey and Sterling Begg showed exceptional fortitude, for Wappingers Council held their Charter and their building while many others lost theirs.
During the years of the Second World War, the Council was again active in the war effort directly and indirectly. Its members served their country well. In March 1946, the Council welcomed back the last member from service in the Armed Forces. The late Brother Carmine Gallucci ended his active service in the Army.
At home during the war years, it was in October of 1942 that a lengthy and detailed discussion was held by the members of the Council regarding the movies shown in the Academy Theatre. The manager of the theatre, at the time, promised to do all in his power to make sure that films that were not acceptable to the community would not be shown. And in 1943 the subject of forming a ladies auxiliary to Wappingers Council was raised. Inquiry was made to New Haven as to how this type of organization could be formed.
Following the war, Council membership began to climb and Wappingers Council started again to carry on the work of the Order.
In 1946, the Council, started the tradition of having the annual Thanksgiving Day Memorial Mass for its deceased members. Brother Joe Bracken, the then Catholic Activities Chairman of the Council was instrumental in establishing this tradition. The first recorded pinning, ceremony for the Council took place in July 1946 at the meeting immediately following the conferring of the Major Degree.
During the latter 1940’s and all through the 1950’s to the present time, Wappingers Council has had many important Communion Breakfasts and Columbus Day Dinner Dances. The Council has been most fortunate to have many celebrities at these functions. Men and women such as His Excellency Bishop Joseph M. Pernicone, Former Postmaster General James A. Farley, Congressman Hamilton Fish, Master of the Fourth Degree Joseph M. Foley, Assistant District Attorney of Bronx County, Andrew McCarthy and former Secretary of the National Communist Party Dr. Bella Dodd. Also such outstanding athletes as Wes Westrum. Tommy Loughran, Andy Robustelli, Joe Morrison and Emerson Boozer. Of these activities, the first annual Columbus Day Dinner was held on October 13, 1947 with some sixty-five in attendance. A highlight of the era occurred during the tenure of Carmine Gallucci as Grand Knight when, in November 1950, the Council hosted the Fordham Glee Club at the Wappingers Central School.
In May 1951, the formation of the Council’s own First and Second Degree Ritualistic Staffs began with the appointment of Brother Tom Kelly as the Chairman. This work continued until late in the 1960’s when the Order modified its rituals.
Father Raymond of Mount Alvernia, in April 1951, invited the Council to participate in the dedication of the new seminary. The Fourth Degree Color Corps acted as an escort to His Eminence, the late Francis Cardinal Spellman. The Wappingers Local Assembly was granted its Charter in 1954 after many members of the Council had been initiated in the Fourth Degree. The Assembly, since that time, has been of tremendous assistance to the Council, particularly when the Council purchased its new home.
It was in 1955 that the work of the members of Wappingers Council again was recognized by the State Council, and consequently the State Deputy, Frank D. J. Flanagan, appointed as the District Deputy a Knight of the Council the late Albert L. Canale. Then a long line of our Brothers held the position of District Deputy. John Gisiano, Adam Schoendecker, Vincent Fortin, Harry Greene, Edward Castellazzi, also Past State Deputy, & present Vice Supreme Master, Hank Lawlor also Former State Warden, Robert Fries also Master of the Fourth Degree, Eugene Noone, Thomas Tompkins also present State Warden, John Simons, Thomas Battaglia, and our current District Deputy Jeffrey Boldrin. Many Brothers from our Council have also held positions in the Hudson Valley Chapter and Conference. Our members have not only guided our council, but went on to support our order at the upper levels.
In June 1962 during the tenure of George Gildard, the Council celebrated its Golden Anniversary. Under the chairmanship of the late Brother Albert L. Canale, the anniversary activities included the conferral of the Major Degree in St. Mary’s School, following a parade through the Village in which more than five hundred Knights of Columbus participated. A banquet was also held at St. Mary’s with Supreme Director Emmet Burke the principal speaker.
Shortly after the Council celebrated its 50th Anniversary, thoughts turned to the acquisition of a new home for the Council. The Wappingers Columbus Club, the owner of the 64 West Main Street building, was revived by Brother John F. Osterndorf. Plans were made by the Council, under Grand Knight Joseph J. Fries to acquire the Central Hudson Building: at 2 East Main Street. The purchase was completed in 1963 and a building committee was appointed by Grand Knight Peter C. Furnari. Under the chairmanship of Brother John J. Bracone, a garage portion of the building was demolished and a new hall and kitchen facilities erected.
In February 1964, the Council began holding its meetings in the new Hall. Its old home, which had served the Council since 1915 was sold in the summer of 1964. The first social function in the new Council Hall was held on New Year’s Eve 1964. This was shortly followed by a testimonial dinner for Father Norbert D’Amato O.F.M. who served as Lecturer of the Council for several years and who had been transferred from Mount Alvernia.
Not long after, the Wappingers Columbus Club was established. The Columbus Club, with the dedicated Brothers who run it, is a true asset to the Council. Allowing more funds to be used for greater good. The Columbus Club staffs the bar and kitchen. Many weddings and celebrations have taken place with their help. Brothers, families, and the community have benefited from their work.
Toward the end of 1964, in November, the members of the Council and the community were saddened by the death of their Chaplain, the Rt. Rev. John J. Loughlin P. A. Msgr. Loughlin had succeeded Father Mines in 1928 as Chaplain and had served the Council for thirty-six years until his death. It was fitting then, that on the dedication of the Council Hall in May 1965, it was named the “Msgr. Loughlin Memorial Hall” in his honor.
Down through the years the Council has been fortunate in the interest manifested by its priest members in its programs and activities. This tradition has been carried on by our present Council Chaplain, Monsignor Francis Bellew, and associate chaplain Father Dhas, both currently guiding St. Mary’s Church. Monsignor Bellew succeeded our beloved Father Ernest D’Onofrio O.F.M of Mount Alvernia in 2003.the Rt. Rev. Charles B. Brennan, who succeeded Msgr. Loughlin, by Fathers Maurice Regan and Robert Rappleyea during their assistantships at St. Mary’s and by Fathers Norbert D’Amato and Thomas Nicastro of Mount Alvernia. Mnsr. Bellew is presently the Chaplain of the Wappingers Assembly. Fathers Karl Bauer and Richard 0’Gorman have served as Associate Chaplains of Wappingers Council.
The purchase of the present Council Home signaled the beginning of a tremendous period of growth for the Council. From the 250 members at the time of the Golden Anniversary, the Council has grown to 475 members at the time of its 60th Anniversary. The Council now draws its members not only from the Village but also from many of the surrounding areas. One disadvantage of the council turning one hundred, is our membership average is on the senior side of the scale. We have had to say goodbye to 48 Brothers that have passed away just since 2008 alone. Membership is presently at 390.
In 1975 then Grand Knight Lou Tokarz received a request from school physiologist Ester Riseman for a donation to send handicapped children to summer camp. Lou’s problem was that the Charity Budget for that year had already been expended. Lou along with the Deputy Grand Knight William Enrico and the Columbus Club Chairman Joe Tully organized and ran a Roast Beef dinner and raised $275, which was enough to send 10 children to summer camp. The dinner was run again in 1976 to again send handicapped children to camp. The event has become an annual event known as “Charity Night” benefiting many causes. Along the way the roast beef was replaced by venison and has become a sold out event. ever since. “Charity Night” is still held annually in February.
The Council has been most active in Catholic Action affairs such as Nocturnal Adoration, Good Friday closing, and “Keep Christ in Christmas” campaigns. The Council and Assembly have made extensive charitable donations to many organizations including St. Mary’s and Mount Alvernia. In 1970’s, the Council initiated efforts to aid needy families and special-needs children. As the Council approached its 60th Anniversary, its members actively promoted the pro-life and anti-abortion movement. Presently, the Council still supports these movements. Many Brothers participate locally, praying, and speaking to women and men in front of Planned Parenthood. We have supported bus trips to Washington DC for the “Right to Life” March, as well as the Pro-Life Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
Capable men have been chosen Grand Knights of the Council and their energetic efforts have been productive over these last many years. Those who served in the highest office of Wappingers Council are – Edward M. Drake, James S. Evans, Joseph V. Lyons, Frank J. Foster, John W. McDonald, Charles Roeder, Raymond A. Bain, William F. Sanders, E. Nester Kelly, W. Joseph Eagen, Thomas Kane, Howard Walker, Donald McDonald, Carmine Gallucci, Phillip T. Morton, Dominic Napoleon, Albert Canale, Thomas Holohan, William Dowling, Joseph Poillucci, Nicholas Catalano, John V. Sullivan, John Berinato, George Gildard, Joseph J. Fries, Peter C. Furnari, C. J. Meccarello, G. John Gisiano, Thomas B. Liguori, J. Donald Feeney, Dominic J. Scarano, Allen J. Lutz and John F. Osterndorf, David Locke, Adam Schaudeneckler, Walter Cronin, Louis Tokarz, William Enrico, Gilbert Muhlenbruch, Francis Baxter,Vincent Fortin, Arthur R. LeClercq, Henry J. Lawlor, Robert L. Fries, Joseph Paliotta, Arther Weit, Harry Green Sr., Edward Duffy, Edward Castellazzi, Louis DeFelice, Pat Cardenia, Thomas T. Tompkins, Raymond A. Bass, Pete Sanfillippo, Eugene K. Noone, Russell Roberti, Franklin H. Hazard, John P. Simons, Thomas Battaglia, John Lawlor, Michael J. Kelly, Glen P. Kelly, Thomas M. Lynch, Jeffrey Boldrin, Bruce Pisano, John M. Chetner, David Brown, James Mortillaro, Max Dao, Raymond B. Strohm, John E. Gorman, Mike Van Voorhis.
In 1972 the Council’s 60th Anniversary Celebration, Grand Knight John Ostendorf and General Chairman J. Donald Feeney provided a unique program. The 4th Degree Assembly donated a new Flag and Flag Pole. The Most Reverend Joseph Pernicone presided at a concelebrated mass in St. Mary’s Church. That evening featured a SPECTAGLIA. A marvelous delight of international cuisine from soup to nuts, food and drink.
The council hall has grown with the membership from a small beginning in a Church basement to a building that has been fully utilized by its energetic membership. The hall has been used to celebrate Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in assisting the local parish of St. Mary’s to provide enough Masses to service its population. It has been the meeting place to Boy Scouts, Right to Life Groups, Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club, School organizations, Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Fraternal Order of Police. We have donated the use of our hall to Grinnell Library, Mesier Homestead, Village of Wappingers Police, Autistic Children’s Group, Village of Wappingers recreation, and countless others. Our hall was also freely given to the Vietnam Veterans who where in need of a place to provide counseling for its members.
Both the 3rd and 4th Degrees of Wappingers are supportive of our local schools and provide scholarships and awards toward Catholic and public education. They support their community by participating in the Picnic in the Park, sponsoring the Holiday Run, hosting blood drives and until the new seniors center was built, was the meeting place for seniors every Monday.
In 1986, the Council has initiated a Past Grand Knights Association. The men who have served the highest office of the council have joined together to assist its present officers, to serve its membership, and to maintain the Columbian traditions. Past present and future together. Past Grand Knight J. Donald Feeney was elected the first president of the association. Past Grand Knight Thomas Battaglia served as president until 2017, when Past Grand Knight Tom Lynch III stepped up.
In 2005, Wappingers Council #1646 created the Wappingers Ladies Auxiliary. The Ladies are a very talented and energetic group doing wonderful things. We have worked hand in hand on many endeavors. But they are their own organization. Giving them the freedom to pursue what is important to their ideals. The ladies inspiration, Faith – That we can make a difference. Hope – That we find the strength to make that difference. Charity – In our hearts to help those less fortunate. You may see a portion of the heartfelt assistance they provide by visiting wla2005.org We are thankful for them.
Fast forward to the digital age. The council established a web site in 2006 (www.kofc1646.org). In conjunction with our monthly newsletter, “The Loughlin Ledger”, it facilitates communication and share events with the public.
Our current recession has been a bit tough at times. But it pales in comparison to the hurdles our predecessors cleared. Two World Wars, the Great Depression, Korea and Vietnam Wars. We now owe a lot to the Brothers who withstood. Thanking them for the strong foundation that the Wappingers council has. You are not forgotten.
For many years, Wappingers Council has been one of the leading organizations of our village and always an effective participant in every activity for the good of the community and at all times loyal workers for the support and intensification of true Americanism.
Wappingers Council is still carrying out the principles of our Founding Fathers, and it is the hope of those now active in the Council that these principles will always be an influence for good in the area and for service to God, to Country and fellow man. In recent years the Council has participated in the St. Patrick’s Day Parades, 9/11 memorial services in Mesier Park, provided Christmas food baskets for Village families, hosted Children’s Christmas parties, assisted with the Wapingers Ladies’ Auxiliary’s 5th & 6th grade dances, organized two blood drives a year, as well as assisted St. Mary’s Church and School.
History is important. This is but a glimpse of our history. But known to the Brothers who have weaved this journey, and the men who will continue, it is by our beliefs, and the principles of the Knight of Columbus, that will endure. Our Founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, saw needs in the late 1800’s, and took action, and fulfilled his second vocation, The Knights of Columbus. We are thankful to him. And without God and our Savior Jesus Christ, our vocations as Knights would not be possible. Thanks and Praise.
In Unity, Vivat Jesus!