Alvin Elmer Potz, the oldest son in his family, planned to take over his family’s farm on County Road 3 in Fifty Lakes. But in 1950 he was drafted to the Korean War, losing his life in the fight in April 1951. He was 24 years old.
Today Alvin’s memory is honored as the namesake to the Crosslake-Fifty Lakes American Legion Potz-Heartland Post 500.
Alvin’s brother, Dale Potz, still lives on land his family owned. He said Alvin was a hunter and a fisherman. His sister, Inez Lind, lives in Baxter.
“They were farm boys who went fishing and bicycling,” she said of her two brothers.
She remembers Dale and Alvin going fishing and coming home with sunfish or large speared fish.
Alvin attended the Fifty Lakes School for grade school, and then went to Pine River High School. Lind said that both their parents spoke German, and when Alvin went to school he spoke better German than English. Alvin’s teachers asked his parents to speak more English in the home so Alvin could better learn the language.
Dale said that Alvin was first drafted after World War II, but that the Army wouldn’t take him because of a health issue. But, when the Korean War started, Alvin was accepted and called to fight.
Alvin wrote a letter to Lind dated April 12, 1951. He describes the scene as he’s on a train to Korea.
“They (the Koreans) sure have a rough life to live. I’m writing this letter on a train, we’re going up to the front lines pretty soon. I seen lots of Korean houses that are shot down and a lot of trucks and trains that are all wrecked,” Alvin wrote to Lind.
Alvin also comments in his letter that all his candy and cigarettes are now free, and mailing letters is too.
He ends his letter, “Don’t worry about me just because I’m in Korea. Love Alvin.”
Lind wrote two other letters to Alvin, but they were returned to her as Alvin was missing in action before the letters made it to Korea.
Lind said that Alvin’s time in the service was short. He finished basic training in the fall and the following April he was sent to Korea. He was missing in action on April 24.
Lind also said that nothing was ever recovered of Alvin’s body or belongings.
“Not anything at all. Not a thing,” she said.
There’s a headstone for Alvin in the Emily cemetery, but nothing’s buried there. Lind said her family didn’t have a memorial service for Alvin.
“I guess my parents just didn’t want to give up hope, especially if he was a prisoner of war, that they might someday hear news of him. But they never did,” Lind said.
Dale was in the Navy at the time of the Korean War. He said that he was supposed to meet his brother, but plans changed and they never saw each other while they were both in the service.
“He was a hard worker, an honest person. I sure miss him,” Dale Potz said.
The first American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919, according to the American Legion website. There are now 14,000 posts worldwide. Minnesota has around 560 posts.
Alvin’s photograph hangs inside the doors of the Crosslake-Fifty Lakes American Legion on County Road 3 in Crosslake.