Honoring the Memories and Sacrifices

St. Louis Gateway Chapter  •  Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge WWII  •  Saint Louis, Missouri

Kent Stephens - Interview Excerpts

[Editorís Note: A followup to Kentís original interview for Victory Through Valor was conducted by Matt Lary in September of 2007. Here are some excerpts from that interview.]

Could you give us a little history behind the founding of the Gateway Chapter?   The Battle of the Bulge organization, the national organization, was started in 1981. Along about 1988, I attended a reunion back in Massachusetts, of my division, which was the 26th Yankee Division, and I might say I got my interest involved in trying to locate fellows who had been in my unit. So I started what we called a Midwest Yankee Division Veterans Association.

Somehow or other, the national organization, Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge found out that I had this reunion out here and they sent me a complimentary copy of their Bulge Bugle, which is their quarterly news magazine. And this was in the latter part of 1992. In the magazine, there was a story about the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, which would be on December 16th, 1994, in St. Louis. And they were asking for volunteers in the St. Louis area to help out with the reunion.

I sat down and wrote to the national organization asking them to send me any information about anyone in the St. Louis area who was a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. They sent me back a letter and there were, if I remember right, 15 names of fellows in the St. Louis area, veterans of World War II, who belonged to the national organization. In the meantime, I was able to locate 26 veterans from the 26th Division, who lived in the St. Louis area. So I contacted them along with the fellows from the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, and we attended a luncheon meeting on December 17th, 1992 at Pietroís restaurant in St. Louis. Well there were 11 fellows who showed up and if I remember right, there were 6 of them from the Yankee Division and 5 of them from the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. So we sat down, had lunch, chewed the fat, talked about the possibility of forming this Gateway Chapter St. Louis. Everybody agreed, letís go forward and try it. Stu Piper and Harold Mueller were the ones that basically decided that they would help me out with it.

Also, I sent Harry Levins (who was the Military Editor at the Post-Dispatch), and Bob Hardy (who was on KMOX radio) a little note, asking them to publicize that we were going to start a chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. Dick Cotter and Stu Piper made arrangements for the group to meet at the Gardenview Community Center on Gravois. So the publicity got out, newspaper and the radio, and when we had our first meeting, on in January, there were over a hundred and two veterans showed up. It blew my mind. I didnít realize weíd have that many guys show up at one time. And from that meeting, we developed our chapter, and itís been very successful. Weíve had over 750 fellows join our chapter, Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, and associate members. And weíve had over 350 who are active members of our Gateway Chapter in St. Louis now. I like to think that we have one of the largest chapters in the National Organization, and that we have been very successful in what all of our endeavors and I have a great bunch of guys who are involved in the St. Louis Gateway Chapter Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge.

Can you tell me about how the idea for a VBOB monument got started?   The national Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge organization had erected a monument at Valley Forge. Stu Piper and I attended a reunion of the 26th Yankee Division there in 1995. So Stu and I went down to see their; took pictures and all that kind of good stuff. So when we got back to St. Louis, Stu and I wondered why we couldnít have something similar in the St Louis area. So with Stuís effort, by the way Stu was the chairman of the program, we got going and planned it. He should be given credit for it and ours is based on the monument that they have in Valley Forge. And well, it was completed in 1997. Then this past year we have added flagpoles and lights for the flags at our monument site. And to those of you who have not been to see it, it is fantastic. It is overlooking the Mississippi River and up on the bluffs. And we all are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish.

Is there anything else that you would like to mention about the Gateway Chapter? Perhaps plans for the future?   Yes. We are trying to get the OK from the St. Louis Park District, to erect a statue in Jefferson Barracks Park close to our monument. To my knowledge, and I could be mistaken about this, there is not a statue as such for any of the veterans of World War II here in St. Louis. There are some from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, but nothing for World War II. Over in Luxembourg, in a town called Clervaux, they have erected (I think it was in 1983) a GI Statue in the town square. I have been there and seen it twice. Back in March of this year, it was decided when I presented this to the chapter, that we would go ahead and pursue this project and see if we could get this job done. At this time weíre still waiting for the Park District to give us the OK. Itís going to be costly; weíre gonna have to raise anywhere from 60-70, 000 dollars to erect this bronze statue. So thatís our goal. I hope we can get it done.

Is there anything youíd like to add that I havenít asked you about?   Well, I would like to give the St. Louis Gateway Chapter a pat on the back for a group of fellows who have been working together for the last number of years, to make it one of the most successful, at least I think it is. One of the most successful chapters in the national organization. Great bunch of guys, we have a wonderful attendance, and itís just amazing to me that we could have that many veterans of the Battle of the Bulge who are compatible enough to get along and try to perpetuate what weíre trying striving to do; to let the public know what happened during the Battle of the Bulge, back in 1944, 1945.

W. Kent Stephens (1924-2015)

W. Kent Stephens, 91, of Collinsville, Illinois, passed away Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

Kent was a World War II Army veteran and a Founder and Past President of the St. Louis Gateway Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. Under his leadership, the Gateway Chapter installed a Battle of the Bulge Monument and World War II G.I. Statue in Jefferson Barracks Historic Park. Kent was the retired owner of Stephens Hardware, located in Washington Park, IL.

He was a past Master and 50 year member of Gothic Lodge #852 AF & AM, Scottish Rite Bodies, Past Thrice Potent Master of St. Clair Lodge of Perfection. Past Sovereign Prince of Cahokia Council Princes of Jerusalem. He received the Honorary 33rd Degree in Atlantic City in 1968. Member of Ainad Shrine and Belleville Shrine Club. Past Master Councilor of A. D. Manners Order of DeMolay, and a member of Legion of Honor, Egyptian Preceptory Order of DeMolay.

Kent volunteered at Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center and Anderson Hospital. He was a member of Winstanley Baptist Church in Fairview Heights, IL, and attended St. Johnís UCC in Collinsville, IL.