Faced by theft of most of their treasury and the wish off their long-time commander to step down, the American Legion in Honesdale is exploring where to go from here.

 Faced by theft of most of their treasury and the wish off their long-time commander to step down, the American Legion in Honesdale is exploring where to go from here.
“I asked if anyone would take my place,” said Stephen Mootha, Commander of the Major David McKelvy Peterson American Legion Post 254. “I’ll be 91 on the 15th of June.” the World War II Navy veteran has been a member of Post 254 for 52 years and commander most of that time.
They had a good turnout of members- about 40 he estimated- at their meeting Tuesday night at the Wayne County Visitor’s Center. He had sent out a special letter to their nearly 70 members asking them to attend and help answer whether or no the Post should continue. They have been in existence since 1925.
Although no one stepped up that evening to serve as commander, the vice-commander, Bernard Harvey, said on Wednesday that they will be speaking to a couple members, and pledged, “We’ll keep the Post going. Enough people showed up; there was enough interest.”
Normally these days, attendance has been low, with 10 members showing up considered good, said Harvey. While the Legion nationwide is made up of primarily Vietnam veterans these days, said Harvey, the Honesdale Post is still primarily World War II and Korean War vintage. He said they are trying to find how to attract younger members, and did gain two from the Pa. National Guard after the Bosnia deployment in recent years. They were hoping for more to join.
Harvey is a Vietnam veteran and says in the years immediately after coming back from the war in 1969, he had no interest in any veteran groups.  In 1989 he sought out help from the Veteran’s Administration because of service-related health problems due to Agent Orange. He then joined the American Legion interested in the Legion’s lobbying efforts for improved veteran benefits.
Last year Post 254 was shocked by the revelation that approximately $27,000 had been stolen from the Post treasury, allegedly by their treasurer John Visci. Honesdale Borough Police have an outstanding warrant for Visci’s arrest, issued last December. Mootha said it was thought Visci was in California. As of yet they have not received any of the money back. Harvey stated they have an attorney helping the Post pro bono, who is looking to see if anything can be done.
Anyone with information in Visci’s whereabouts is asked to contact Deputy Chief of Police Joseph LoBasso, Honesdale Police, at (570) 253-1900.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw the canceled checks,” Commander Mootha said, flabbergasted that his name had been forged.
Harvey said they had so much money because of a sale of a building in town several years ago; the Legion had kept the money in the bank and was using the interest gained to pay for the Legion programs. Bootha stated money is needed to give scholarships each year to four high school students, who attend either Keystone Boys State or the Peace Academy in the summer.
Harvey said they hope to do some fund raising. There is an offer of loans from other Legion Posts as well as the District; he said they hope to be able to avoid that.
Mootha said he goes to Honesdale area schools each year on behalf of the Legion.
Enrollment in the American Legion is presently open to veterans who were in the service since 1991(the Gulf War) as well as certain time frames of conflict prior.
Mootha and Harvey were both hopeful to be able to complete a new roster of officers at the next meeting, Tuesday, April 22 at 8 p.m. at the Visitor’s Center.
Post 254 may be contacted at P.O. Box 228, Honesdale, Pa. 18431; Mootha may be reached at (570)253-0354 and Harvey at 251-9992.