WINCHESTER — Charles Zuckerman, who served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946, never thought he'd still be around to see the local American Legion post turn 100 years old. 

"How many veterans live to be 95?" said Zuckerman, a World War II veteran and a former mayor of Winchester.

Zuckerman was one of about 135 legion members to attend the 100th anniversary celebration of the Conrad-Hoover American Legion Post 21 at the Clarion Inn & Conference Center on Saturday night.

With more than 400 members, Post 21 is one of the largest American Legion posts in Virginia. It was founded on Aug. 22, 1919, about five months after the American Legion was established nationwide by an act of Congress after the end of World War I. 

There are nearly 2 million members in more than 13,000 posts worldwide.

The local post is named after Capt. Robert Conrad, the first Winchester native to be killed in World War I, and Winchester native Charles Hoover, who was killed in North Africa during World War II.

"Members of Post 21 historically represent every branch of the military and have served in almost every armed conflict from the early 20th century to the present," post adjutant Bill Germelman said in a speech recounting the post's history.

The post's early home was 117 & 119 N. Cameron St., which is now a parking lot next to the BB&T bank building. In 1922, the post moved to 209 N. Loudoun St., which had a pool in the basement for athletic classes. The post remained at that site until 1956, when that building was razed to make way for a parking lot. 

In 1956, the Post 21 moved again to 1730 Berryville Pike, which had a 15-foot bar that could seat 147 people. The post remains there today — and there is plenty of parking. 

Capt. Paul Campbell, who served in the Korean War, said at the celebration that he appreciates being a part of the veterans community in Winchester, where he has lived for 15 years. He said he enjoys reflecting and socializing with other veterans young and old at events such as the breakfasts at Golden Corral restaurant, held the first Saturday of each month. 

"This is the most veteran-friendly place I have ever been," Campbell said. "Thank God for this place. Thank God for Winchester." 

Saturday's event included a special way to recognize American Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action: a place was set at the table and left empty.

There was also a performance by Winchester Pipes and Drums. 

Post commander Lauretta Lockhart toasted the group after recognizing the evening's special gusts and dignitaries. She is the first female commander in the post's history. 

"Happy birthday," she said, raising a glass of wine. 

Germelman said it's "amazing" to be part of a local organization turning a century old. "We are all brothers and sisters at the same table at American Legion Post 21," he said. 

— Contact Onofrio Castiglia at ocastiglia@winchesterstar.com

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