In 1947, two years after World War II came to a close, M. Neil Royer found himself in little Balaton, Minnesota.
It was where he set up shop, and is located near an even smaller Lyon County area known to Royer as hometown Lynd. And it is where he first became a member of the American Legion, the country's largest and most renowned wartime veterans service organization.
Seventy years later, in the quiet dining hall of Friendship Court at St. Luke's Lutheran Care Center in Blue Earth, an alert and quick-witted Royer prepared for his 95th birthday amidst a gathering of friends and family all while still serving as a proud and active member of the Legion.
Royer's Legion counterparts, in fact, were on hand Monday, March 13, in the corridors of the senior living facility to bestow upon him recognition from both the Legion's local Post 82, out of Winnebago, and the organization's national leadership.
It is not every day, after all, that someone makes it to celebrate seven whole decades of service to a cause, let alone one that impacted Royer personally as a former World War II recruit. That is why Dwight Hervey, Danny Rynearson and Robert Thorson, all of Post 82, gathered to thank Royer for his 70-year membership with the Legion.
"It's quite an achievement," said Hervey. "I take care of the membership for Post 82, and this is one of the joys of it."
Royer seemed to agree.
Recounting his days as a young man called away from home to train for the war, the honoree admitted he did not anticipate a 70-year commitment to the Legion when he joined in Balaton years earlier.
"I went into the Navy and went all over, was sent to California, and then the war ended so that's as far as I got," he said. "After that, I spent all but six months in Winnebago with the Legion."
Roughly half a year of Legion membership in Balaton and another 70 years in Winnebago, then, earned Royer the pair of framed awards he was presented Monday. Each honor, one signed by national Legion commander Charles Schmidt, named Royer "an outstanding contributor to the programs of American Legion."
Hervey, who said he shared 25 years of Legion companionship with Royer and at least another 25 outside of the organization, echoed the honors by boasting of Royer's milestone achievement.
"They couldn't give him 140 years," Hervey joked, "so they had to split the recognition between local and national."
It is not as if Royer, who has resided at St. Luke's for several years, is no longer dedicated to the Legion well into his 90s, either.
Hervey said his longtime friend is "as active as he can be," and both Royer and his family made it clear the 70-year member is no stranger to some busy hobbies around the community.
Founder and former manager of Royer's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning on Main Street in Winnebago, Royer has four kids, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandkids to keep up with. And over the years, in between Legion responsibilities and a more-than-69-year marriage to his late wife, Berneice, he restored five Model A cars, began assembling from scratch his own open-cockpit airplane at around 80 years old and penned at least 65 pages of a personal memoir.
Since 1947, he has come a long way.