William J. Hocking-Post 91-Wharton-NJ

The William J Hocking American Legion Post 91

Honorary Life Member History

Wharton, New Jersey


What is the Honorary Life Membership?

The Post can award Life Membership for outstanding service to the American Legion. The Commander selects the Honorary Life Membership (HLM) Committee for a one-year term. The HLM committee is comprised of three Life Members and the Membership Chairman (non-voting member unless a Honorary Life member). The Commander will assign one person as the Chairperson. The Chairperson may also contact current life members for additional feedback on potential candidates.

The standard length of membership has traditionally been a minimum of 25-30 years before becoming eligible.  However, this standard can be over-ruled by a unanimous vote of current Life members. 

One of the major requirements is being active in the Post for many years. This range of activities could range from tending bar, being a post officer, working on the clean-up committee, cooking, general maintenance, color guard, attending meetings, and membership in various committees.

The process is typically kept confidential. Once this Committee has nominated an individual(s) and contacted the other Life members for their input (if required) their recommendation will be advanced to the executive committee for consideration.

The executive committee makes the final decision to approve or deny a nomination.

The Honorary Life Membership card is presented at the Installation of Officers or the Past Commander’s Dinner.

Background of Post 91 Honorary Life Membership

One member who was associated with the Life Membership Committee for many decades was Benny Bencivenga. He was the chairman of the committee for over 30 years. 

Service as the Post Commander is an important consideration but not a requirement.  The Post has had many members that have worked to keep the Post operating effectively but are behind the scenes. A good example is Jack Thomson and Bill Kraft. Jack saved the Post thousands of dollars by performing the HVAC maintenance either before or after hours. He was always a phone call away to fix a broken or ice machine or air conditioning unit. The same for Bill Kraft who for many years did carpentry work behind the scenes.

Kenny Staler is another person that fits the worker who did not become the Post Commander but was awarded Life Membership.  Kenny was an excellent statesman for representing the Post. He as the bar chairperson and tended bar for over 25 years. He took great pride in keeping the Post home immaculately clean.  He was also an excellent teacher for the new bartenders. 

Two people that could have had been awarded Honorary Life Memberships were Bill Thompson and Bill Kassay. They both were fixtures at the Post.  Neither would say “NO” to a request to help out in any activity.  Both of these members exceeded all expectations. In return they enjoyed the socializing aspect of their fellow members.

Over time many, many members have put in hours, days, months and years.  But both of the Bill’s above put in decades.

There is a Difference in Life Memberships

There are two types of Life Memberships in the Wharton Post 91:

A.  Honorary Life Members

B.  Paid Up For Life Members (PUFL)

A. Honorary Life Members

1.  Posts have recognized outstanding members for exceptional service or accomplishments by awarding what is known as Honorary Life Membership.

2.  For Honorary Life Memberships, the Post assumes the responsibility of seeing the yearly dues are paid annually for the remainder of the member’s life. (The Post purchasing a PUFL membership on the HLM’s behalf can accomplish the payment of dues for the HLM)

B. Paid-Up-For Life Membership

The PUFL membership is a different program that any Post member could purchase.  This should not be confused with the Honorary Life Membership recognition awarded by the Post.

Honorary Life Membership Formalized in 2016

In 2016 the Post formally adopted a Honorary Life Membership program. The formalization of the HLM is intended to capture past practices and create a standardized selection process for the Post to used in considering candidates for the awarding of the Honorary Life Membership. The details of the program are outlined below.


Summary of Requirements

  1. Must be a member in good standing of the American Legion (certified).
  2. Twenty-five (25) or more years of continuous membership in Post 91 or thirty (30) or more years in combination with other American Legion Posts.
  3. Past Commander of Post 91 required or service as Post Officer in various offices during Legion membership.
  4. Served on various committees, special consideration for chairmanships held, during Legion membership.
  5. Must have demonstrated traits of good character, leadership and deportment during service time.
  6. In lieu of service time and Non-Past Commanders, a candidate’s Legion Service Record must be of such extraordinary and exemplary nature to the Post, Community, State, or Nation to warrant their nomination for Life Membership. Service as a County, Department, or National Officer is a contributing factor under this category.

Selection Process

  1. The Commander appoints the Honorary Life Membership (HLM) Committee annually for a one-year term.
  2. The Committee will convene at least once a year or more to investigate members who meet the requirements.
  3. The Committee will present the recommended candidates to the Executive Committee for final determination.
    1. The HLM Committee will utilize the HLM Candidate form to process a recommendation for HLM.
  4. The Executive Committee will approve or deny candidates at regularly scheduled Executive Committee Meetings.
  5. Upon approval the Post Adjutant/Membership Chairman will take the following actions:
    1. Submit a Membership Data Form or enter the HLM on mylegion.org
    2. Submit a request to National Headquarters to stop mailing of Membership Renewal reminders.
    3. Ensure that HLM is added to the Post records.
    4. Membership Chairman will ensure that HLM is annotated on the membership ID card.
  6. Upon denial the Post Adjutant will ensure that the HLM Candidate form is recorded in Executive Committee Minutes and the HLM form is retained in Post historical documents.

Committee Composition

  1. The Life Membership Selection Committee will consist of 3 Legion members in good standing and the Membership Chairman.
    1. The Committee will consist of Active members who are Honorary Life Members. If there are not enough HLMs available or willing to participate on the Committee the Commander will appoint past Commanders, Executive Committee Members, or Post Officers to the Committee.
    2. The Committee term of service is one year.
    3. The Membership Chairman is a non-voting member of the Committee. The Membership Chairman’s role is to provide necessary documentation/verification related to the eligibility of the candidate.

Honorary Life Members – Post Everlasting

Benny Bencivenga

William Kraft

Bill Thompson

Alan Bone

James List

Jack Thomson

Mel Cole

Jack McGinley

James H Tregenza

Bill Emigh

John McGrath

Jack Vienne

Walter Goldsworthy

Walt Noonan

Harry Weeks

Neil Griffin

Bob Powell

Frank Yaros

Martelle Jones

Bob Schnare

Paul McGinley

Bill Kassay

Pete Smith

Bob Katalinas

Rod Kennedy

Jim Matanin

Dick Schreck*

Richard M Dyson

Kenny Stalter  

BOLD type indicates past Commander Post 91


Honorary Life Members - Present

Ed Brice

Kevin Finnegan

Leon Stickle

Bill Burbridge

Paul Hartle

John Ruppell

Andre Finnegan

Dennis Miller

Bruce Schnare



BOLD type indicates past Commander Post 91

* Past County Commander