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Fueller honored by Legion Auxiliary for 50 years of service

By Sue Sitter - | Oct 24, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Clarence Larson American Legion Post 23 Auxiliary President Tootie Fueller holds a cake presented to honor her 50 years presiding over the post.

People serving in any organization for 50 years will leave an influence behind. Tootie Fueller has left her influence on the Clarence Larson American Legion Post 23 Auxiliary.

The energetic post president stepped down recently after five decades of service. Auxiliary members honored her with a cake and celebration at the Village Arts Center in Rugby on Oct. 13.

Fueller mingled with the group at the center, her clever quips drawing smiles and giggles as she recounted events during her time with the post.

Fueller prefers to be called “Tootie.”

When asked her name, she said with a smile, “Well, do you want the real me? If I gave you my real name, people wouldn’t know who I was!”

Fueller became president in 1970, “about four years after I joined,” she said.

“I started out local, as our unit president here. Then I went to district president, department president – that was at the state level, then national advisor for seven states,” Fueller said.

“I was national advisor for the northwest division. I could’ve gone on from there, but I decided to stop,” Fueller said. In her advisory position, Fueller oversaw auxiliary posts in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana and Minnesota.

“I had to travel through those states to see what they were doing, and give a presentation to each one and find out if they had questions or if there was anything I could do to help them. I had a lot of conferences,” Fueller said.

Fueller said she served in “all the chairmanships” in the Rugby post.

“I had a lot of good helpers,” she said with a smile. “They were cooperative and willing, and sometimes you have to lower the boom,” she added with a laugh.

Fueller said she saw plenty of variety in her time with the Rugby post. “The auxiliary has different programs. There’s Americanism, education, Girls’ State and several others,” she noted.

“I was at Girls’ State for a couple of years as a counselor, and when you’re district president, you’re invited to come there and be a speaker,” she said of the program for high school girls, which gives them an opportunity to learn about American government. “I visited there several years,” she added.

“Girls’ State was usually held in Grand Forks,” she said. “I was chairman of Girls’ State one year because a gal got sick. (The event) was transferred to Minot because of the flood in Grand Forks. I stepped in and took over to transfer everything from Grand Forks to Minot and back to Grand Forks.”

Fueller had many favorite duties during her five decades of service. “I think just visiting the units in the state and also in the seven states I was in charge of was my favorite,” she said. “It was always interesting to see what other units were doing.”

Fueller said she moved to Rugby from Lamoure County in 1963, when she took a job teaching elementary school.

“I started singing with the Legionettes,” she recounted, describing the American Legion Auxiliary’s choral group. “We performed for a lot of things in town. One of the ladies asked me to sing with them. Then, I joined the Legion Auxiliary to sing with the Legionettes. It just took off from there.”

“And I’m still here,” she added with a smile.

“I like to sing,” Fueller added. “I’m a teacher.”

Fueller said the Rugby post accepted her bid to join because her father had served in the Army during World War I. Her five brothers had also served in the military. Two of her brothers served overseas. Auxiliary membership is open to spouses or relatives of those who served in any branch of the United States military.

Fueller has devoted nearly as many years to teaching as she has to the American Legion Auxiliary.

“I was a teacher at Ely Elementary,” she said. “Then, I took a couple of years to teach at Little Flower (Catholic School) when my kids were born. They needed a teacher. I think I’ve been teaching over 40 years. The last six years, I worked in the resource room at the high school. Kids came in as seventh graders when I started, and when they were high school seniors, I left with them. I left teaching then.”

“That was five years ago,” she added.

Fueller also stays active with her church and community. “I go to First Lutheran Church,” she noted. “But I did help out (at Little Flower Elementary). I donned my habit and went to help over there,” she smiled again.

Fueller said she enjoyed watching her American Legion Auxiliary post grow over the years.

“We kept up with the rest of the region until a few years ago when we started going down in numbers” she noted.

“That’s with everything,” she added, referring to civic organizations in Rugby.

“We can’t get the younger ones interested to come in. We’ve got some new ones now who are going to be working hard, so that’s a good sign, but we were all getting older and wanted to keep the organization going, but we couldn’t do much about it,” Fueller said.

Fueller said members of the Rugby post find themselves with challenges at times “because there are so many programs, but we aren’t active enough to have people in chairmanships for each program. So, we tend to stress Girls’ State, Boys’ State, Veterans Day, Memorial Day for our members to come and help.”

“Some help with poppies,” she added, describing a program where members distribute paper poppies and raise funds for the American Legion Poppy Program. Mostly the younger ones do that. But, they kind of have to be affiliated, too.”

People interested in joining “just have to contact someone who’s a member or knows anything about it, and we can get the papers to them and they just have to fill it out,” Fueller said.

Fueller said she would stay involved with her post after stepping down as president. “I’ll still be around here. But, it’s time for new blood. I’ve wasted all mine,” she added with another laugh.

Auxiliary members praised Fueller’s work for their post.

“She did awesome presentations where she dressed up like Betsy Ross,” said Jan Norsby, who serves as an officer for the post and has been involved with the auxiliary for about as many years as Fueller. “She has been the main speaker at many Memorial Day presentations.”

“She’s done a lot of presentations at the long-term care facility in Rugby,” added Joyce Teigen, who along with Karen Christenson serves as president of the post.

Fueller laughed shyly, “Now, you’re digging in the archives.”

“You’re a jack of all trades, though,” Norsby said.

Fueller said she’s been busy lately attending to personal matters after a death in her family, but she doesn’t plan to slow her pace down soon.

“Tomorrow, we’re leaving for Vegas,” she smiled.

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