In the fall of 2006, WWII veteran Phil Bellefeuille coordinated a few of his veteran friends to meet for coffee at the Elks on Tuesday mornings. The original group included Phil, Ray Hartzell, Bob Landers, Dave Pyka, Frank Deal, Andy Knox, Roy Pruett, Bobby Tague and Robert McHaney. Sadly, they lost two dear friends at this time. Roy Pruett and Bobby Tague both passed away within six weeks of each other.
One morning, Phil decided that coffee should include lunch, so he declared, “Lunch on bandofbrothersMondays!” Phil’s good friend Loren Myring, along with Zin Watford, Falvie Anderson and Gary Kelly joined them at this time. They were meeting at the Northside Café until Phil thought they should try a different restaurant each week. Phil made reference to them as being the “Old Pharts,” so Robert McHaney made up a sign, “Old Pharts-A Band of Brothers” which was displayed in a frame at their lunch meetings.
As word got around, more “Brothers” began joining them each week. The Bend Bulletin published an article about the group where Phil publicly invited any veteran to join them. Loren Myring started taking pictures of each veteran and Ray Hartzell wrote up their biographies to put into a notebook.
It soon became confusing getting the information out to everyone as to which restaurant they were going to be eating at and it was becoming difficult to accommodate all who showed up. It was then decided it was time to meet at just one designated restaurant, one that had both plenty of space to accommodate a crowd and one with adequate parking. Richard Smith approached veteran Lyle Hicks, owner of Jakes Diner, to have the weekly luncheons at his restaurant. There was room and ample parking. Lyle agreed to accommodate them in the back room.
Younger veterans and many sister-veterans started attending. When a flag was dedicated to the Bend Heroes Memorial by the “Brothers” luncheon attendees, they abandoned, for obvious reasons, the “Old Pharts” designation and thus became known as the Bend Band of Brothers.
As attendance increased even more, they quickly outgrew Jake’s backroom. They moved everyone to the main dining room and Lyle started a buffet in order to serve everyone in a timely manner! Several out-of-town “Brothers” decided it would be good to start a luncheon in their own towns. This would allow more people to attend a lunch locally without traveling to Bend. Plus, Jake’s was getting pretty full! LaPine was the first to form their own luncheon, followed by Redmond, Sisters and Prineville.
Although each town has their own Band of Brothers, they are now collectively referred to as Vietnam-war-soldierthe Central Oregon Band of Brothers. “Brothers” who have moved away and visiting veterans who have attended the luncheons here in Central Oregon have organized Band of Brothers luncheons in other Oregon towns as well as other states.
In Bend they have had over 600 men and women veterans who have come to lunch at one time or another. Attendees have included international veterans and one State of Oregon Representative who also is a veteran. Others in attendance have been spouses, parents and other family members of veteran’s, and many others who advocate, work or volunteer in many veteran related projects. Their oldest current attendee is 97 and the youngest to attend is an 8-year-old young man who is a member of the Oregon Cascade Young Marines based in Portland. They have had one wedding ceremony performed at the luncheon uniting two regular attendees! All shared the moment… and the cake!
The luncheon is emceed by Zin Watford. Jess Cordoni serves as Chaplain and many others are on-hand faithfully each week to help out with various duties that make the luncheon run smoothly. Proceeds from the sale of Band of Brothers accessories, such as hats and jackets and weekly 50/50 tickets, have allowed the brothers to donate to several veteran endeavors such as Honor Flight, Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, and other veteran-related projects. In addition, they have helped numerous veterans in times of need.
american-flag-200Sadly, Phil Bellefeuille passed away in March of this year. Phil, and the many other attendees who have passed away since this group began, will always be remembered as good men and women, and they will be honored and remembered as veterans who served our country, or as civilians who served the veterans. They are all part of a special group known as the: Band of Brothers.
Ray Hartzell – September 2011