L-R: Tom Amsler and Don Hahn
KNOX, Pa. – There is nothing fishy about Tom Amsler as he worked at the Friday fish fries held at Knox American Legion Post 720.
At 90 years old, Tom is also the oldest active member of the Knox Legion where he has been a member for 68 years. Along the way, he has recruited many members, including Legion Adjutant General Don Hahn.
“I don’t take any medications and I can’t figure out how or why I am so healthy,” Amsler said in describing his lifestyle. “I even still have my license.”
The long-time Legion member has been doing fish fries for about 27 years.
The fish fries were still going on at the Legion’s old location at East Penn Avenue and Main Street when he recruited Hahn after he served in Panama and was discharged from the US Army.
The Legion moved to its current location in 2007 when they purchased the Gringo North Mexican Restaurant building and added the event hall a few years later.
Fish fries are an important fundraiser for the Knox Legion and allow the support of many community projects. “It’s a fundraiser for us and that’s one of my duties as a member of the American Legion.”
Fish fries are held on the seven Fridays of Lent every year and the Legion has a routine each week that stretches from Thursday to Saturday.
“We go in on Thursday mornings to a place where the fish where thaw can thaw and on Friday mornings, we get the pans ready to fry.
“On Fridays, we get the potatoes ready and get the fish out so it can thaw out,” said Hahn. “We have chicken wings on Thursdays, so we have to change all of the grease to do the fish. We have to come back Saturday morning to change the grease and again because we’re going back to chicken. It’s a big expense but we do things right.”
Amsler estimates they serve an average of 250 dinners, but it has been up to 300 sometimes.
“People really like the taste of the fish,” said Amsler. “This year, supplies were scarce from Maplevale Farms, and at first, we didn’t know where we would get it and prices had increased. We had to get a different type of fish instead of Cod than we normally serve but people still came.”
Everyone in the Knox American Legion family helps with the fish fry and that includes members of the Legion, Servicemen’s Club of Knox, Son’s of the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, and the American Legion Riders. The Auxiliary is under its own charter.
With the entire Legion family, there are 842 members.
“If we didn’t have good help to make it all possible, including the officers, employees, and members of the Legion, Sons of the Legion, Auxiliary, and Servicemen’s Club, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Hahn looking out from the kitchen Friday.
“The town of Knox is supportive, but all of our people don’t come from Knox; they come from around here,” Amsler added. “It doesn’t seem like it hurts the local businesses and they are popular.”
Amsler served during the Korean War
Amsler served during the Korean WarArmy during the Korean War and most of my time overseas was in the far east. I was in the Signal Corps. It was all confidential and I had to pass security tests.”
He was also required to join the Army Air Force Signal Corps and that was because of the signal cord designation.
After he was discharged, Amsler was a mold maker at Knox Glass for 36 years, including a four-year apprenticeship until it shut down, and then went to work as a mold worker at Clarion O-I for 10 years until he retired at age 65.
“I wasn’t really active in my working years, but when I retired, we were pretty low on members and they asked me to help out. we moved out of town and later built the addition. “I recruited a lot of members and helped turn it around.”
Amsler is a member of the honor guard for military services for deceased veterans and a member of the board of directors.
Tom’s wife Helen was a secretary at the Keystone School District for 29 years and was active in the community.
He has three children, Steven of Mercer, Debra Talarcio of Zelieniople, and Shawn of New York City.
Tom’s service and military connection lives on with his two grandsons.
• One grandson is a West Point graduate and was back and forth from Afghanistan and achieved the rank of captain. After the Army, he joined the FBI and spent his first 10 years in Chicago and he’s now in West Virginia working out of the Pittsburgh office.
• His other grandson spent about 21 years in the Air Force and he’s now a drone pilot and an instructor.