Our Council was named for the heroic US Army Chaplain, Father Emil Kapaun, who is currently in the process of being elevated to Sainthood. To learn more, Council #3744 Brother John Wilson gives an accounting of Father Emil Kapaun in his condensed version of the book The Story of Chaplain Kapaun Patriot Priest of the Korean Conflict, a book by Father Arthur Tonne.
THE EARLY YEARS
Back in 1953, Westchester was a fledgling community where rows of houses and apartments were swiftly replacing the bean fields and empty lots. State Deputy Bernard Loughman saw a need for a Knights of Columbus council in the area to serve the growing population, and he assigned his chairman for New Council Development, Rudy Wittal, the task of forming a new council.
Rudy Wittal, Charles Spencer, District Deputy Clyde Long and Robert Tucker publicized their cause from the pulpits of the local parishes and in booths at community fairs. Rudy visited each potential member at his home. Rudy was joined by his wife, Carol, who invited the prospective member's wife to join the Ladies of Columbus.
The first meetings for organizing the new council were held in Rudy's garage. Then on October 20, 1953, the first one hundred members were inducted into the Order in a ceremony held at the Westchester Women's Club. The pastor of Visitation parish, Fr Thomas O'Sullivan (who became Msgr O'Sullivan) served as Chaplain. Also on this date, the first officers were elected, including Rudy Wittal as the Charter Grand Knight. Following a Second and a Third Degree Exemplification held at Council 621 on November 17, the council had the required number of full Knights to apply for its charter.
Inspired by an article on the life of Fr Emil Kapaun that appeared in the newspaper, the members voted to rename the Westchester council after the heroic Chaplain of the Korean War. Fr Thomas O'Sullivan served faithfully as the council's Chaplain during the first year, after which Fr Charles Harmon of St Jerome parish was appointed Chaplain. Fr Harmon served as Chaplain for over four years.
The council calendar of activities started off slowly with fundraising dances, but within a few years offered a full calendar of council and district activities for members participation. These included bowling (with three council bowling teams), retreats at the Serra Retreat House, a Christmas Party at the Nazareth House for orphans and Quarterly Communions followed by breakfasts at local restaurants. The council was consistently one of the top ticket sellers in the chapter for Rancho San Antonio and twice received St Anthony statues for placing first in the chapter.
THE COUNCIL GETS A PERMANENT HOME
At first, regular council meetings were held at the Women's Club, while the social events were held elsewhere, usually at an American Legion hall on Lincoln Blvd. After two years, the council decided to hold all of its meetings at the American Legion and it did so for the next five years.
Finally, the members had enough of renting and decided it was time for the council to build its own hall. Several locations and hall designs were considered and a partially developed block on Manchester Ave in Playa Del Rey was ultimately chosen.
The hall was paid for by soliciting $25,000 in bonds from its members and taking out a $10,000 loan from the bank. Grand Knight Joseph Van Dusen conducted the ground breaking ceremony and the hall was built in just one year. Dozens of members volunteered their labor and talents in plumbing, painting, paneling, wiring and finish constructing of the bar and kitchen. The council hall was literally built and finished by the members themselves with very little hired help.
Under Grand Knight Julius Lazok, the council held its first meetings at the completed hall in September 1959. The flag raising and dedication ceremonies were conducted in November 1959 and from then on dances, including the Spring Luau, Clergy Night, Past Grand Knight Dinners, Christmas and New Year's parties and community Fish Fries were all regularly held in the new hall.
NEW CHAPLAIN AND CHERISHED SPIRITUAL GUIDE
After a year searching for a replacement for Chaplain Fr. Harmon, who had been reassigned to a new parish, Loyola University Fr Clement Schneider, SJ accepted the office on August 2, 1960. His devotion to our council would be demonstrated by his incomparable attendance record over 31 years of service, faithfully attending 90% of the hundreds of council meetings until his passing on All Saint's Day in 1991.
DECADES OF MEMBER GROWTH AND PROGRAM EXPANSION
During the first Luau in the new hall, the council awarded its first Chris Award to Past Grand Knight Joe Van Dusen; Knight of the Month Awards were added a few years later and continued for about ten years. In 1962, the council chartered Boy Scout Troop 134, which helped dozens of boys reach the rank of Eagle during the next 23 years.
During the 1960's, the Nocturnal Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at St Anastasia was a great commitment. Teams of five Knights took one-hour shifts day and night for 38 hours during the first weekend of each month. The Clergy Night Dinners also became popular during this time (largely due to the sports celebrities that were invited to speak), although they were only open to Knights, their sons, and priests.
In 1973 the officers realized the council hall was on land that was still being rented. Additional bonds were sold during the following year to buy the land underneath the hall and the parking lot and, in 1975, the council was paid off all the bondholders and Council 3744 finally had a hall completely its own.
In 1975, the golfers started holding tournaments and awarding a perpetual trophy for the low net of the year in honor of Past Grand Knight Alex Stevenson.
With the hall paid for and advertisers paying the cost of the monthly bulletin, the council was able to increase its charitable programs in the early 1980's: annual scholarships to graduating students of Westchester parish schools and Kapaun Mt Carmel High School in Wichita, Kansas and aid to local seminarians though the RSVP program. In 1980, the first Family of the Year Award was awarded to Past Grand Knight Tom Jones.
On May 21, 1985, the council's newly-formed First Degree ceremonial team inducted 20 new members into our council. This class would be known as both the largest group of inductees in recent years and the most active and productive; four of the members of that class have become Grand Knights and four others became officers or chairmen in the council.
Our council was proud to have a role in two events of national importance; being assigned a block to provide crowd control during our Holy Father's motorcade through the streets of Los Angeles in 1987 and helping the State Council raise money for a float in the Rose Bowl Parade honoring the Columbian Quincentennial of 1992.
COUNCIL #3744 TODAY
Today, the Fr Emil Kapaun Council has about fifty program committees, holding over seventy meetings, and activities each year for the enjoyment and edification of its members. The council also participates in dozens of additional events attended by officers and Fourth Degree members.
Our council is proud to have earned the Supreme Council's top award, the Star Council Award, for Columbian Years 1989-1990, 1993-1994, 1995-1996, 1999-2000 and most recently in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. The successful member recruitment efforts of the past few years have raised our membership to over 300 members.
As we continue to grow and evolve, we pray for God's inspiration and guidance in doing our works of Charity, Unity,Fraternity continued and Patriotism.
For a more detailed history, please visit Greg Ullman, Council Historian's, History of K of C Council 3744.