History

Breese Council No 2869 of the Knights of Columbus was instituted on April 4, 1943.  The institution of the council was first spoken about by Rev. H. H. Aydt, pastor of St. Dominic’s parish and a group of men consisting of A. J. Appel, Edward Feltrop, and Robert Meissner.  These men after conferring with Father Aydt called a meeting on February 1943, inviting men of St Dominic and St Augustine parishes. At this meeting enough men signed applications for membership to assure those in charge to proceed with necessary arrangements.

On Sunday, April 4, 1943 the first and second degree was exemplified by the Carlyle Council staff and the third degree by the staff of Dr John T. Murphy of East St. Louis, then serving in the office of District Deputy. The charter class consisted of 50 insurance candidates and 50 associate candidates. The first Grand Knight of the council was Robert Meissner.

Since its institution, the council has carried out programs for Catholic Action, always bearing in mind working for the honor and glory of God and for the good of the country. It has cooperated in various civic activities. One of the first activities was during World War II; it was the first group of any organization that made a mass donation of blood to the Red Cross blood bank in St. Louis on July 3, 1943, at which time 80 men of the council motored to St. Louis to give blood. It sponsored the first blood mobile bank in Breese.

The council participated in War Bond drives, cooperated in fund drives for the Boy Scout of America, sponsored a Catholic Boy Scout Troop, cooperated with Father Gregory Kunkel in his Indian Mission of Nebraska, aided in the purchase of new equipment for St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese and many activities too numerous to mention. The Council formed its own First and Second Degree staff and conferred the degrees not only on its own new members but visited other councils and conferred the degrees on their new members.

In 1945, plans were begun for raising funds for a building. It was the hope of the council to own their own building. This ambition began to be realized when in 1950 the Columbian Association of Breese was charted by the State of Illinois. Under the leadership of Harry Schumacher, arrangements were made to purchase lots from William Jasper for the location of the building.  Ground was broken in August 1952 and the construction of the building was begun.  Today the council is proud of its home which is located on the southeast corner of North Walnut and North Fifth Streets in Breese. The building, besides being a meeting place for the Knights of Columbus, is used by the Daughters of Isabella, the Breese Columbian Squires, and by various civic groups, as well as for wedding receptions, business meetings and banquets. The building was opened April 12, 1953 and dedicated by Bishop Albert Zuroweste on November 29,1953.

Religious, civic, athletic, and community projects are sponsored annually by the Breese Knights of Columbus such as swimming meets, free throw contests, tennis tournaments, spelling bees, little league teams, pool tournaments, bowling tournaments, CPR training, blood drives, scholarships to Mater Dei High School, Newman Apostalate, Tootsie Roll drive for the mentally handicapped, and Keep Christ and Christmas Poster program to name a few.  In order to provide financial support to the community, the council underwrites many fund raising projects. Some of the typical fund raising projects sponsored by the council include a weekly chicken fry on Fridays, fish fry during lent, Downstate Bar-B-Que, Humanitarian Assistance raffle, annual whole hog pork sausage and chicken dinners, and many special benefits as the need arises.

Some of the highlights and major accomplishments of the Breese K of C Council include being a major donor in the fund drive for a new hospital, two station wagons for the nuns at Mater Dei in 1960, another station wagon for Mater Dei in 1964, a new car for them in 1977, a new school bus in 1979, various capital equipment or projects each year for Mater Dei and All Saints Academy, a sum to defray partial cost of another school bus for Mater Dei in 2004.  Over the years the Breese K of C has raised funds for uniforms for the band, athletic uniforms, trips, computer labs for Mater Dei and All Saints Academy, and scholarships at Mater Dei High School, and Post Prom activities for both Mater Dei and Central High School.

The Newman Apostolate Program, the Catholic Ministry on college campuses, is considered one of the top priorities of the Knights of Columbus and has been the recipient of the generous annual contributions over the years. In addition to the annual fund drive, members donate and cook 45 turkeys each year to serve at the Catholic Ministry at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for the holidays.

St Joseph Hospital in Breese is another recipient of the generosity of the Breese Council.  In addition to the annual Tree of Lights Scholarship Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the council purchased a new Oscillate machine (infant incubator) as well as several other needed machines.  The council also provides facilities and manpower assistance for the Hospital Auxiliary Fund raising events and Health Fair.

The annual Tootsie Roll Drive for the mentally handicapped is another activity for the council.  Over $6000 a year is raised to support the mentally handicapped from our area.

For 54 years the Council hosted an annual Spelling Bee for the grade schools in Clinton County.  Over the years other councils in Illinois mimicked our program.  Based on the Breese Council success, the Breese Council was instrumental in developing this program into a state wide Illinois Knights of Columbus Program.  Under the direction of Albert Niemann, second Grand knight of Breese Council, as the state chairman, the first State of Illinois Knights of Columbus Spelling Bee was held at Breese Council in April 1982.

The Breese Council’s generosity also extends to non-members.  Funds were donated to several families when a family member was stricken with a catastrophe, illness, or injury.  The funds were needed by the families to defray expenses not covered by insurance.  The council’s generosity also extended to neighboring towns.  When New Baden was devastated with a tornado that severely damaged a fourth of the town, the council within hours of the disaster purchased and fried over 100 pounds of fried chicken to the people of New Baden who were left without a home.

Pro Life is another integral program for the Breese Council.  Each year the council sells lapel roses to raise funds for Pro-Life.  On June 10, 1999 Bishop Wilton Gregory dedicated the Monument to the Unborn at the Breese Knights of Columbus Hall.

The number of Council Activities over the years are countless and too numerous to mention all.  Some have come and gone, while others continue annually.  One unpainted program is the Communion Breakfast and Memorial Service for the deceased members.  The council membership also leads the recitation of the rosary at the wake for departed members.

From its initial membership of 100 members, the membership of Breese Council has continually grown with 661 members in 2004.  The number of members might be even higher, however, the Breese Council has initiated the institution of new councils in Trenton, Bartelso, Albers/Damiansville, New Baden, and Aviston.

In April 1978, the council celebrated its 35th anniversary.  The celebration was highlighted with a mass celebrated by Rev. H. H. Aydt, then Pastor Emeritus of St. Dominic’s Parish who served as the first chaplain for the Breese Council. Father Aydt was instrumental in the founding of the Breese Knights of Columbus and served as Council Chaplain for 25 years, from its founding in 1943 until 1968.

The accomplishments of the Breese Council were made possible by active participation of its many members, and the generous support from the citizenry of Breese and the surrounding communities.  The Grand Knight is the leader of the organization, and the local council has been blessed with excellent leaders.  Serving as Grand Knight of the Breese Council were:

 

Robert Miessner                1943-1945

Albert Niemann                1945-1947

Joseph Huelskamp            1947-1949

Victor Henrich                  1949-1951

Edward Feltrop                 1951-1953

August Huelsmann           1953-1955

Ferd Foppe                        1955-1957

Joseph Kuper                    1957-1959

Theodore Warnecke          1959-1961

Henry Pollmann                1961-1963

Maurice Albers                  1963-1965

Joseph Wobbe                   1965-1967

James Lampe                     1967-1969

William Timmermann        1969-1971

Ralph Langhauser             1971-1973

Carl Maue                         1973-1974

Jerry Jansen                       1974-1975

R. Joseph Richter              1975-1976

Robert Klostermann          1976-1977

George Maue                    1977-1978

Paul Richter                      1978-1979

James Kohnen                   1979-1980

Donald Toennies               1980-1981

Mike Nettemeier               1981-1982

Eugene Kohrs                   1982-1983

Roger Szczepan                1983-1984

Gerald Venhaus                1984-1985

John Ratermann                1985-1986

Ron Kleiboeker                 1986-1987

Paul Kohnen                     1987-1988

Cornelius Zurliene             1988-1989

Walter Eilers                     1989-1990

Ken Richter                       1990-1991

Ralph Timmermann           1991-1992

Curt Winter                       1992-1993

John Mills                          1993-1994

Ralph Von Bokel              1994-1995

Cyril Athmer                     1995-1996

Bill Koetting                     1996-1997

Donald Deiters                  1997-1998

Gary Jansen                       1998-1999

James Hellige                    1999-2000

David Moss                       2000-2001

Doug Kuhl                        2001-2002

Craig Athmer                    2002-2003

Leo Lammers                    2003-2004

Joseph Langhauser            2004-2005

Curt Zurliene                     2005-2006

R. Shane Bowen               2006-2007

Rich Koerkenmeier           2007-2008

Richard Robben                2008-2009

Robert Lager                     2009-2010

Robert Foote                     2010-2011

David Deutsch                  2011-2012

Steven A. Kleiboeker       2012-2013

Lawerence Spirek             2013-2014

Dennis Litteken               2014-2015

Ron Clark                          2015-2016

Robert Albers                   2016-2017

Tony Mueth                      2017-

 

The Breese Council has been recognized as one of the top councils in the State of Illinois. The Illinois State Council of the Knights of Columbus has recognized the achievements of the Breese Council with numerous awards at the Illinois Knights of Columbus State Convention. The council has received awards for the number 1, 2, or 3 council in the State of Illinois several times. They have also received top recognition awards in the categories of Church, Community, Council, Family, and Youth. The council was judged as having the best scrapbook, portraying Knights of Columbus activities for several years. On the National level, the Breese Council has received the Star Council award many times.

As mentioned above, the Knights of Columbus Home was originally built and dedicated on November 29, 1953. Growth of the organization, both in size and activities dictated a 32 X 80 foot addition upstairs and down stairs in 1972.  With this renovation additional seating for table and chairs was made available upstairs, and a dining room and an upgraded kitchen for downstairs. The addition allowed for more use of the building for council activities, wedding, anniversaries, banquets, and meetings. In 1982, the home was again expanded with a 24 X 80 foot expansion on the North side of the building. This allowed for more seating upstairs, and a new club room downstairs. Since the 1982 renovation, an elevator was added to the front of the building along with rest room renovation to make the home handicapped accessible. Basically, the building has tripled in size. The Knights of Columbus Home in Breese is considered one of the finest council facilities in the state, for which the local members are justifiably proud. The Home Association, the Columbian Association Corporation Presidents were as follows:

Robert Meisner                 1951-1953

Virgil Albers                     1954-1958

Bernard Nordmann           1959-1962

Ted Warnecke                   1963-1965

Louis Rolves                     1966-1970

Joe Wobbe                        1971

Henry Albers                     1971

Ed Langhauser                  1972-1973

Clarence Schrage              1974-1975

Jerome Jansen                   1976-1978

Jerome Hagen                   1979

Bill Timmermann              1980

Norbert Ottensmeier         1981-1983

Ralph Maue                       1984-1986

Eugene Rehkemper           1987-1989

Cornelius Zurliene             1990-1994

Ralph Fonke                      1995-1997

Donald Detmer                 1997-1998

Robert Berndsen               1999-2000

Donald Toennies               2001-2007

Mike Nettemeier               2007-2009

Curt Zurliene                     2009-2013

Steve Tebbe                        2013-2015

Russel Zurliene                  2015-2017

Justin Eilermann               2017-

 

The Breese Council realized a need for a good youth organization and instituted a Squires Circle for Catholic boys from 12-18 years of age. The Circle was chartered by the Supreme Council and institution of the circle was held on March 11, 1981. Through the guidance of Counselors Thomas Hustedde, Roger Szczepan, Fred Olliges, James Hellige and John Mills the Circle was up and running. The circle followed in the footsteps of their sponsor, Breese Council 2869, with the activities they performed. They have assisted the church and continue to provide financial assistance to those in need. Their efforts have not gone unrecognized. They have won plenty of the Brother Barnabas awards, which is only awarded to 25 circles a year nationwide for outstanding projects and activities in spiritual, service, circle, or membership, and has won the Corp D Elite award 8 times, the highest honor a circle can obtain for outstanding achievement in all areas of circle operations. At least 15 Squires members and Counselors have been awarded the State Squires Medallion. The Circle has also earned the recognition of Circle of the year 3 times. Counselor Mike Niemeyer has earned the Counselor of the year award twice. Circle members Jeremy Kampwerth, Ahren Langhauser, and Luke Niemeyer have gone on to be elected State Chief Squire with Ryan Nettemeier and Ben Deiters as the State Deputy Chief Squire.

As the years roll on the Breese Council 2869, along with the Columbian Association and the Squires Circle, with the help of God, will be around to help make Breese and the surrounding communities a better place in which to live.