By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The day didn’t go exactly as expected when Fred Ingellis joined American Legion Post 49 .
His father had helped start the American Legion nationwide, and he told his son that the first thing he needed to do after his World War II service was join up.
“I went there, and this man tried to make me an admiral,” Ingellis, 88, recalled. “I said I didn’t want to be an admiral because I was in the Air Force. He said, ‘Go back and take care of the pots and pans,’ so they made me an admiral.”
If you don’t get the joke, Ingellis’ wife, Virginia, can explain: “He was in charge of the vessels.”
“Like an admiral,” he said.
That’s how Ingellis’ decades-long association with Post 49 began. His wife is a Legion member, too, but it was extra hard for her to get into the club.
“They wouldn’t let me join the post. They wouldn’t let women join,” said 86-year-old Virginia Ingellis, who was a member of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. “I went to the state convention and got on the floor and protested.”
“You should ask her who the commander was in Tupelo then,” Ingellis said.
“My husband,” she said, pointing to the man sitting to her right.
He raised his hands up and explained there were rules that even kept American Legion Auxiliary members from meeting at the club on Legion Lake. It took time to change minds.
Virginia Ingellis said, “I was a member of the Aberdeen post for three years, then the Tupelo post changed, and I came home.”
Once she got there, she made the best of it.
“She was the first post commander in Mississippi who was female,” her husband said.
“I was commander for 14 years,” she said.
During that time, her husband was moving up the chain of command. He held just about every local and state title possible and eventually became national vice commander.
“I would’ve gone for national commander, but it would’ve cost me a fortune,” he said.
“If he had, it would’ve cost $40, $50 or $60,000 to go to all the posts around the country,” Virginia Ingellis said.
“We would’ve been more broke than we already are,” he said. “You’d have to buy suits, tuxedos, cummerbunds and all that. You’d have to dress the part.”
They’re both members of Post 49’s executive committee, and spend their time trying to build the club while doing good.
“I like the fellowship,” he said.
“Helping our fellow veterans is my main thing, and helping out charities,” she said.
Their entries into American Legion Post 49 weren’t as smooth as they might’ve liked, but many decades later, there’s no doubt where they belong.
“This is a home for us,” she said, “a home away from home.”