National American Legion History
The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, servicemembers, and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. Membership swiftly grew to over 1 million, and local posts sprang up across the country. Today, membership stands at over 2.4 million in 14,000 posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments: one each for the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.
Over the years, the Legion has influenced considerable social change in America, won hundreds of benefits for veterans and produced many important programs for children and youth.
Post #17 History
Iowa City American Legion Post 17 became a permanently chartered post as of November of 1920. The post is named after Roy Chopek and Walter “Bud” Ott.
History of Roy Chopek
Birth: 18 Aug 1895
Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa, USA
Death: 23 Feb 1919 (aged 23)Germany
Burial Saint Joseph Cemetery Old
Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa, USA
John W. Chopek 1870—1948
Delia Chopek 1868—1916
Carl J. Chopek 1909—1928
Iowa City Daily Press
Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa, Monday. 27 September, 1920
All Iowa City Joins in Paying Tribute to Srgt. Roy L. Chopek, Who Made Supreme Sacrifice In Germany.
All Iowa City mourned today in memory of Srgt, Roy L. Chopek, the gallant
defender of the flag of liberty, and brave battler for the democracy of the world. He laid down his life in Germany, while sewing with the Army of Occupation, after the world war.
During that war, he fought bravely and well in France, the roster of his
campaigns, as detaiied herein during the struggle for freedom, and after the
Armistice, telling the story of a Iong—faithful, and continuous service–facing death again and again, at the enemy’s hands, ere the greatest enemy, Death, laid him low, with non—martial weapons.
Martial and Civic
The city hall flag, ﬂoating at half mast over the local temple of justice; the toiling of city, university, and church bells, the cavalcade of solemn, sorrowing men and women, the closing of business houses for an hour of silent recognition of heroism, the oratory of eloquent men, the fragrance and beauty of flowers, the stirring cadenzas of choral and organ music; the ﬁring of guns at the grave, the sonorous, and yet soft, notes of the trumpet, also at the Silent City of the Dead, the soaring aloft of airships, dropping fair flowers over the church, where worshippers assembled in patriotic spirit, and bowed in grief, as the impressive services proceeded–all these things testiﬁed to the Athens’ esteem and affection,
appreciation and sorrow.
Laid to Rest
Srgt. Roy L. Chopek, whose name the American Legion otherwise honors here perpetually, by naming its post the Roy L. Chopek post, was laid to rest at St. Joseph’s with imposing ceremonies in keeping with the senrices that preceded the consigning to the tomb.
An Imposing Cavalcade
The coretege, an imposing cavalcade, moved from the Hohenschuh-Donohue mortuary, to St. Wenceslaus church, at mid-forenoon. Srgt. Jacob Maier[Maler?] of the United States army. chief trumpeter in the university of Iowa regiment; headed the procession, in company with Col. Ralph P. Howelt, commander of the American Legion post, which organization had charge of the exercises, from the military standpoint. Then came the drum corps- playing superbly, with D. l. Hover in charge, and W. H. Bliss, Robert Carson, Arthur Parizek, Robert Tomlin. Cloyde Shellady and S. G. Pilcher assisting him finely.
The entire Legion personnel came next, in uniform. After the members of the
post, came the ﬁring squad in overseas uniform, commanded by Captain William Hayek, of the First Iowa Cavalry–the members of the squad being Joseph Dvorak. George Prybil, Glenn Shalla, John Tiedeman, Will Boarts, Leo Amish, J. Heber Trundy, and George Reha.
Following the ﬁring squad, the honorary and active pall bearers marched, six
each, as follows:
Active — Dr. F. L. Love, Prof. J. J. Hinman, William J. Holub, Frank J. Mesik, Frank C. Spiedel. Col. Geo. W. Ball.
Honorary — Edward Wren, L. L. Leighton. Clarence Fitzgerald, Earl Weeks, Capt. L. 0. Clark. City Clerk George Dohrer.
Next came the hearse, followed by a long line of automobiles, bearing relatives, and friends by the hundreds. ‘
At the Church.
At St. Wenceslaus church, before the great throng proceeded to the cemetery,
the services were highly impressive. The choir and organist provided choice music, and the eloquent Rev. Joseph O’Donnell. of Cosgrove, a member of the Iowa City American Legion post, preached a beautiful sermon, paying a tribute of enduring type to the dead soldier; and to all those young heroes who gave their lives for liberty–the “supreme sacrifice” forecasting the everlasting gratitude of all civilized mankind, and the eternal reward in that “Undiscovered Country” beyond the clouds. Rev. A. Panoch, pastor of St. Wenceslaus conducted the solemn high mass. Rev. Edward Neuzil, of St. Ambrose, Davenport, a boyhood friend and schoolmate of Srgt. Chopek assisted.
The church was bestrewn with fair, fragrant ﬂowers, each petal, soft and sweet, and velvety, breathing its blessings on the dead hero, and invoking eternal peace. These blossoms fell from hundreds of feet in the air, the United States Post Ofﬁce department contributing two of its mail ships for the purpose of bathing the sacred ediﬁce in the snowstorm of ﬂoral beauty.
The aeroplanes were Nos. 172, bound for Omaha, and 174, bound for
Cheyenee, Wyo.. guided, respectively. by Pilots Rowe and Stewart. It was the desire of these loyal aviators—-testifying eloquently to the part the ships of the air played in winning a world war triumph–to bestrew the grave at St.
I became a member of the Roy L. Chopek American Legion Auxiliary in 2010. I was familiar with the last name Chopek because as a child growing up in the 1950’s Iowa City Mary Chopek was the school nurse. Since 2019 was the centennial anniversary of World War 1, I became more interested about the
namesake the American Legion Post #17. This is what I discovered:
LeRoy Lewis William Chopek was born August 18, 1895 to John W and Delia (Eppel) Chopek. He was the ﬁrst born to be followed by siblings Lee, Helen, Henrietta and Carl. According to the 1900 Census, John W Chopek, a clothier, lived in a new house with his family at 324 North Lucas Street in Iowa City. John’s father, also named John helped to organize about eight Bohemian families to live in the Northeast section of Iowa City Goosetown—to help preserve their language and culture. The Chopek family was a prosperous, well respected Catholic family.
LeRoy became known as Roy. He attended eight years of Common and 2 years of Grammar School. He could read and write. As was common for the time he did not attend High School or College. Roy worked for the Golden Eagle -a clothing store-in Iowa City. When Roy was 20-in 1914– he moved to Waukon, Iowa to work for Hale and Sons—also a clothing storeﬁas a clerk and window trimmer. In 1916 his mother, Delia would pass away. According to his June 5, 1917, AIIamakee County draft card the single, gray eyed, brown haired Roy earned $900.00 a year. He described himself as short and stout. Photos would show a handsome, sharply dressed young man
Roy— soldier number 540417-~ was sent to Camp Green, North Carolina for training before Landing in France April 15, 1918. He would see action in ﬁve battles. In early 1919 he would be part of the Army Occupation of Germany. He would attain the rank of Sergeant Supply Company 7th infantry and was
considered an excellent camouflage artist—maybe the years doing clothing window displays help perfect his artistic skills?
The Iowa City Chopek family received a letter from Roy on March 5, 1919 dated two weeks earlier—mid February stating that he was in good health. The next communication would be to tell of his passing from pneumonia February 23, 1919-he was 23 years of age. His body would not return until September of 1920.,
Roy’s body would return on the Princess Matoika tranSport ship. Ship records list his sister Helen as next of kin. The Matoika was a 1900 German built ship-originally named the SS Kiautschou and was used by German forces to deliver mail. The United States seized this ship at the neutral port of Ceba in the Phillipines and renamed it the Princess Matoika. In July of 1920 The Matoika was a last minute substitute vessel to carry a portion of the 1920 US Olympic team to Antwerp, Belgium. The ship landed August 8, 1920. Ten days later on August 18, 1920 The Matoika would depart Antwerp for Hoboken, New Jersey carrying the remains of 114 soldiers including Roy Chopek and other troops landing September 4, 1920. The Princess Matoika transported more than 50,000 troops during her service years.
According to the September 27, 1920 Iowa City Daily Press the details of the funeral and procession were recalled. The city flag was at half—mast: “the oratory of eloquent men” and ”solemn sorrowing men and women”. Roy’s body was moved from the Hohenschuh-Donahue mortuary at mid-forenoon
to St. Wensceslaus in an imposing cavalcade of an Army trumpeter and commander Col Ralph P. Howell from the newly renamed Roy L. Chopek American Legion Post #17, the seven man drum corps, then the entire uniformed American Legion membership, the eight man ﬁring squad in overseas uniforms commanded by Captain William Hayek of the First Iowa Calvary, the six honorary and six active pallbearers and then the hearse followed by a long line of automobiles with relatives and friends by the
hundreds. The choir and an organist provided choice music and the eloquent Rev Joseph 0″Donneil of Cosgrove, Iowa and member of the Iowa City American Legion post preached a beautiful sermon and paid an endearing tribute to the deceased soldier A solemn high mass was performed at St. Wenceslaus (the Goosetown Catholic Church) by Rev A. Panoch. Assisting was Roy‘s childhood and school friend Rev. Edward Neuzil. The church was filled with fragrant ﬂowers. The United States Post Office contributed two of its mail airplanes bound for Omaha, Nebraska and Cheyenne, Wyoming to drop ”floral petal blessings from the sky over the church steeple” — a gift from local Iowa City businessman James L. Aldous. The airplanes circled the Iowa City area six timed before releasing the flower petals The cortege then continued to the St. Joseph Cemetery-now called the Old St. Joseph Cemetery. Rev Father O’Donnell conducted the commitment ceremony. Then drums were rolled as a magnificent casket was lowered into the “welcoming arms of Mother Earth.” The ﬁring squad paid tribute and the ”Taps” filled the air. The City, University and Church bells toiled. Local businesses closed for the last hour of the day; Judge Ralph Otto suspended Court for the last hour of the day and Mayor Ingalls Swisher also discontinued City activities for the same length of time. LeRoy Lewis Wiiliam Chopek had come home.
The young man has become more than a name on the building and I discovered that the school nurse of my youth married his brother Lee.
At the Memorial Day Luncheon at the Post Home, the American Legion Auxiliary #17 paid tribute to Roy Chopek’s passing 100 years ago. As the poppies Were placed in front of his oil portrait we were surprised to find exactly 100 poppies—it was an omen. It was time to remember and honor him.
*Sourced from Findagrave.com