World War II veteran, military honorees recognized in Grand Forks ceremony at Tufte Manor

VFW Post 1874 honors veterans, including a WWII vet, at Tufte Manor

111222 Veterans.jpg
U.S. Coast Guard veteran Dianne Pedie, one of eight veterans honored during a VFW Post 1874 program at Tufte Manor on Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, salutes during the Pledge of Allegiance.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
We are part of The Trust Project.

GRAND FORKS — Even at 95, John Keller still remembers his World War II service in the U.S. Army in eastern Germany — the names of Heidelberg and Stuttgart come easily to mind. He tells of another town where his unit went; it’s unfamiliar and tough to pronounce.

“Don’t ask me to spell it,” he said.

Keller was among eight veterans who were honored during a Veterans Day ceremony Friday, Nov. 11, at Tufte Manor. He was the only WWII vet in the group.

For him, Veterans Day brings up a lot of memories. Mainly, he says, “We did the best we could under the circumstances. I’d go back again.”

Others honorees, and the military branches they served, are: Myrlin Troftgruben, Alfred Hagen, Chip Matcha, and Don Foley, all were in the Army; Dianne Pedie, Coast Guard; Mike Mahon, Navy; and Duck Fellhauer, Marine Corps. Pedie, the only female veteran in the group, served in the U.S. Coast Guard at Lake Metigoshe in north-central North Dakota.


Members of the VFW Post 1874, in partnership with the UND ROTC unit, presented a special program, giving special attention to Keller, who is well-known around Tufte Manor, according to Lisa Warner, life enrichment coordinator.

“He sings ‘God Bless America’ up and down the halls every day,” Warner said. “He thinks that should be the national anthem.”

Keller, who spent his entire life in East Grand Forks, was drafted and spent about four years in the Army, he said.

As the years go by, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a WWII veteran, said John Hanson, commander of VFW Post 1874 and national legislative officer for North Dakota.

“(Keller) is probably one of the last ones living around here,” Hanson said.

111222 Veterans2.jpg
VFW Post 1874 Commander John Hanson (right), with Vern Kary, post chaplain (left), and Steve Cremeans, senior vice commander of the post, lead a program at Tufte Manor on Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

When Veterans Day comes around, Tufte Manor resident Gloria Selnes, 97, said she thinks about her older brother, Richard Mendick, an Army lieutenant who, at age 24, was killed in France during WWII in 1944.

He was the oldest of nine children in her family, Selnes said. “I just get teary-eyed.”

Mendick is buried at Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities.


“(The VFW) was part of our life,” she said, noting that she’s been involved with the Oslo VFW Auxiliary since she was very young. “I would sell poppies as a little girl.”

Selnes’ six brothers, father, son-in-law and husband Oliver Selnes all served in the military, she said.

Another honoree, Alfred Hagen, a lifelong resident of Grand Forks, remembered his great-grandfather, Jens Anderson, who had just emigrated from Norway when the Civil War broke out. Anderson joined the 164th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment, said Hagen, who kept his great-grandfather’s Civil War uniform until it was destroyed in the Flood of ‘97 here.

On Friday, the residents of Tufte Manor also were treated to a dinner provided by Applebee’s, Warner said. The restaurant provides a free meal to veterans on Veterans Day; they made special accommodations to serve a meal for vets at Tufte Manor on Friday. The veterans had their choice of eight meals, including a steak dinner, Warner said.

Friday’s program included singing of the national anthem, led by soloist David Kary, a member of the VFW Post 1874; a prayer and poetry reading; and a brief talk by Vern Kary, post chaplain, on the history of Veterans Day, originally known as “Armistice Day.” On Nov. 11, 1918, it first marked the end of WWI. At the urging of veterans organizations nationwide, the day was renamed Veterans Day by congressional action in 1954, Kary said.

At the end of the program, the UND ROTC unit gave a rifle salute in the parking lot, and a recorded version of taps was played indoors.

Closing the program, Warner thanked everyone for attending and then told the veterans, “We respect and honor you for all you have done for us.”

As many as a dozen women with ties to North Dakota have been identified as having served as Women's Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.

Related Topics: VETERANS
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
What to read next
Individuals and families in need were also able to pick up meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.