Jimmie Connors has finally come home.
Connors — the first Manteca soldier to die in World War II and subsequently had Post 6311 named in his honor when it was chartered on March 3, 1946 — has his portrait and story framed in the entrance hallway of the new Moffat Community Center.
The center, which doubles as Jimmie Connors Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311/Manteca Veterans Center is conducting an open house on Wednesday, Nov. 11, starting at 1 p.m. It is being conducted in conjunction with the annual Veterans Day observance that will include dignitaries and presentations.
Along those walls as you enter is not just the portrait of Connors —who has a striking resemblance to the dashing Errol Flynn of Hollywood’s Golden Age — but also the post charter and numerous awards including ones for being the fastest growing VFW post in the nation two years in a row and another for being No. 1 in the VFW Legacy program on the national level as well.
There are plaques displaying the names of past post commanders starting with Richard Schadeck who served from 1946-47
Above the entrance door are photos of five major post benefactors. Post Commander Carlon Perry notes between them they represent $25,000 that helped the VFW post realize a 69-year dream to have a place to call home. They are Albert Boyce Jr. who served in the Navy. John Vierra who served in the Army and his wife Eleanor Vierra. Elite Plastering’s Roger Sweet and Mark McQullian whose father served in World War II. And a logo representing a generous donation from the Manteca Area Soccer League.
Their generosity helped play a part in making the center a reality.
Already an average of two dozen veterans gather daily at the center. Someone brings several boxes of doughnuts. They brew coffee. They sit around and shoot the breeze or play a game of pool on a pool table provided by Don and Judy Kirkland.
Nearby is a podium made by member Lloyd Shipp for the new post home.
For the next few days the VFW members are preparing to show their new home to the community. They are busy hanging art work and photos depicting various wars that American sons and daughters were called upon to fight. Outside, they are ready for crews to put a flag pole in place. The flag will be hoisted for the first time by the East Union High JROTC during Wednesday’s Veterans’ Day observance with help from VFW members.
Along the Moffat Boulevard side of the building are 480 of the 600 bricks purchased at $100 apiece by the community to honor veterans. It is part of the Alvin R. Mendes Plaza — the only Manteca solider never to return from war. He fell in one of the bloodiest campaigns in North Korea. His remains have not been recovered.
“It’s fitting that Alvin Mendes is finally recognized for his sacrifice,” Perry said
Perry noted the remaining 120 bricks that have already been purchased were done so too late to get them in place by Wednesday. They will be going in soon. There are still 300 bricks that can be purchased. A monument in the center of the plaza is still awaiting placement of the emblems of the five branches of service — Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
Mendes’ sister — Sally Mendes — is speaking at Wednesday’s ceremonies. Also on the program are Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum, former Mayor Willie Weatherford who played a key role in securing city cooperation to get the center built, Congressman Jeff Denham, and Deputy Secretary for California Veterans Affairs JP Tremblay. Perry will serve as master of ceremonies.
Singing the national anthem is veteran James Greer.
Perry is looking for the center to breathe not just new life into support for veterans but for the community as well.
He noted that even before they had received the keys from the city, the VFW was able to secure a visit of the mobile Veterans Administration health screening clinic. Two veterans that were screened were discovered to have serious health issues. One has already had his issue corrected — double vision. The other is now getting help for his ailment.
Besides serving as a post home and gathering point for veterans services, the post intends to stage community events such as art shows.
“We want this (center) to benefit not just the veterans but the entire community,” Perry said of the $1.3 million 3,600-square-foot center.
The building — ideal size for most wedding receptions and parties — will be available to rent for five to six hours for $500. They are also planning on making it available for service clubs to rent for luncheon meetings given there is a kitchen available.
You can call 823.8700 for more information.
The VFW will have the Manteca Veterans Center open initially weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon with plans for Saturday and Sunday hours pending.
A Sunday breakfast is expected to be started on a weekly basis by February. They are still exploring the possibility of having a cafe operator offer meal service
For brick donations or to simply help the effort you can reach Adjutant Dave Bricker by either emailing email@example.com or calling 456.7299.
Perry can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 275.0410.