War History online proudly presents this Guest Piece from Jeremy P. Ämick, who is a military historian and writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, which began with an organization of Spanish-American War veterans in 1899, has long been a fixture throughout communities in the United States. It was not until four years after the end of World War I, however, that a group of local veterans came together in Jefferson City to form their own VFW post in honor of a fallen comrade.
Officially organized on October 25, 1922 during a meeting of local WWI veterans at the Cole County Courthouse, the decision was made to name the newly established VFW Post 1003 for Pvt. James Roy Sone—a local man who was killed while serving in France on October 4, 1918.
The 21-year-old Marine was laid to rest in France, but in 1921, his remains were returned to Jefferson City and buried in Riverview Cemetery with full military honors provided by American Legion Post 5, which had formed three years earlier.
“Another significant happening during the early years of Roy Sone Post 1003 … was the history of the life size portrait that now hangs in the hall of the Post Club room,” noted an unidentified author in a 1972 booklet printed in celebration of the post’s 50th anniversary.
As the booklet goes on to explain, “… the portrait was painted by Charles G. Brethauer, a well known artist of St. Louis.” Records available through the Missouri State Archives note that Brethauer served overseas with a federalized Missouri National Guard unit during World War I.
Though a commercial artist whose income came from the sale of paintings, Brethauer only charged the post for the cost of the materials involved. The VFW booklet further noted that he painted the portrait using a “Kodak picture of Roy Sone that had been taken in camp” and visited the home of the late veteran’s mother, Leta Sone, for “instructions (for) the finishing touches.”
A local company, Capital City Planing Mill, constructed a frame for the portrait, which was then finished by Henry C. Pavitt, a local veteran of the First World War who later operated an advertising company and was himself a painter.
As part of the state convention of the VFW held in Jefferson City on April 12, 1924, the painting of Sone was unveiled and dedicated during a special ceremony held in the hall of the Missouri House of Representatives in the state capitol. Governor Arthur Hyde—who five years later became Secretary of Agriculture under the administration of President Herbert Hoover—provided the address at the unveiling.
Records do not detail the painting’s home throughout the next two decades; however, the VFW Post 1003 continued meeting at the Cole County Courthouse until later occupying “the upstairs of the old Clark Wright building at 124 East High Street,” wrote the VFW in their 50th anniversary booklet.
An article printed in the February 10, 1952 edition of the Sunday News and Tribune noted the VFW post moved from their High Street location to the second floor of a building located at 223½ Madison Street in 1946. It was here, the article reported, that the portrait of Sone was displayed as a reminder of the fallen Marine for whom the post was named.
“The Roy Sone post No. 1003, Veterans of Foreign Wars, will move tomorrow…,” the aforementioned newspaper article explained. “Tuesday (February 11, 1952) the VFW will open its ‘luxurious’ new home at an old city landmark, 217 Capitol Ave.,” the article further noted.
In a twist of irony, the Capitol Avenue location once housed several newspaper companies for whom Roy Sone and two of his brothers were once employed to help put out the mail editions.
Shortly after moving into their new building, the VFW hung the portrait of the fallen Marine in their clubroom, where it remained on display for the next fifty years. In 2013, the long-time home was closed when VFW Post 1003 merged with the VFW Post 35 and moved to the latter’s location in St. Martins.
Now named the Basinger-Sone Post 1003 in honor of Post 35’s namesake—Wyman Basinger, a long-time sheriff of Cole County and Marine Corps veteran of World War II and Korea—the post has retained the Post 1003 designation during the merger since it possesses the older of the two charters.
The nomadic past of the Roy Sone painting has again found pause with its more recent placement on a wall in the clubroom of the post home in St. Martins, alongside a large portrait of the late Basinger, thus providing an image of two namesakes on which current generations of veterans can continue to reflect.
“After we merged, we realized that the painting of Sone was part of the history of Jefferson City and needed to be preserved,” said Phil Kalaf, a Vietnam veteran and decades-long member of the VFW. “When we began moving the Jefferson City post to St. Martins, the first thing we moved out of the building was the painting of Sone because we didn’t want it to get damaged.”
He added, “Now it hangs next to a picture of Wyman Basinger here in St. Martins so that everyone can recognize and remember the namesakes of our VFW post.”