If you go to the burger night at the Hart VFW on Wednesday nights, you will certainly run into Steve Fell, who will probably take your order and your cash, and maybe share a joke or two. For example, he’ll be happy to tell you about the call he got on one burger night from someone who did not identify himself but warned that a technician would be coming right over to turn off the power for non-payment of the bill. Fell was pretty sure it was a scam call since he is the Post Quartermaster and pays the bills, so he immediately said, “Well, I have about 30 veterans in this hall who will be upset if you turn off the power, and my next customer is the Deputy Sheriff, but go ahead and send the technician out and make sure he has the right paperwork.” To that the person on the phone could only respond, “I’ll have to talk to my supervisor,” and hang up. “We had a good laugh over that one,” Fell recalls with a chuckle.
Burger night is what keeps the Post running, and it has enabled them to do significant remodeling, with new paneling, a new ceiling, lights, sinks and grill tops for the stove.
Before Covid restrictions, it was a sit-down meal on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 5-7 p.m. These days it is curbside pickup only, but Fell will be there making sure it all goes well, because he is the Post Hall Manager, and that is part of his responsibilities.
Fell himself is a Navy Veteran, having served 26 years in the Navy. Even while he was serving he says he always intended to be a member of the VFW when he retired so he could give back to other veterans who served abroad during foreign wars. When he retired from the Navy, he joined one VFW Post and then later joined the Hart Post where he has now been a member for 12 years. The Post headquarters at 802 S. State Street in Hart is an integral part of the community, as its members provide military honors for deceased veterans, lead local parades and loan out medical equipment, such as crutches, walkers and beds. The Post also provides a site for VA Northern Exposure to hold a medical clinic twice a week by appointment, for a PTSD course, for the County Health Department to offer flu shots, and for the Red Cross to hold their blood drives. As Post Hall Manager, Fell does all the set-up and supervision for these programs.
When Fell signed up for the Navy in 1966, he married his high school sweetheart who had never been out of Michigan, The Navy took them many places in this country and around the world. He was stationed in Virginia, Florida, Mississippi and Alaska, as well as Morocco (where his son Steve was born), Japan and Iceland. He also did independent tours without his family in Vietnam and the first Persian Gulf War.
As a Seabee, Fell was engaged in naval construction, serving as an automotive and heavy construction mechanic and performing federal contract inspection for construction projects. “We would go in behind the Marines after they blew everything up,” he recounts, “and we’d come in and reconstruct. I maintained the equipment to do that work.” In addition, he taught trade school in the Navy, once for the Moroccan army.
Fell grew up in Detroit, but he and his then girlfriend, now wife, often came over to Stony Lake and fell in love with the area, so when he retired from the Navy in 1992, he and his family moved to Oceana County where he worked as a clerk at Rankin Hardware in Shelby, as maintenance foreman at Oceana Foods, in maintenance at Ready Rental in Muskegon, as maintenance foreman at R&S Transportation and Chief Engineer at the Holiday Inn in Muskegon, and as head of maintenance at Oceana County Freezer Storage. He also served as a committee member at the Oceana County Department of Veterans Affairs for six years, and interacted with national and local VA Departments to get benefits for veterans.
Fell is proud of his service both in the Navy and with the Hart Post. “Having served 26 years in the Navy, especially in Vietnam, I’m wholeheartedly behind anything that is needed by vets,” he says. “I did this while on active duty, provided counseling and mentoring, molding and making the troops.” But he also serves in the community in other ways, as senior usher and on the finance committee at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Shelby.
Since he is committed to service himself, he is a believer in service for everyone. “I believe what Kennedy said,” Fell asserts. “‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ I believe we should have mandatory national service – not necessarily military, but offering service to others in some capacity.”
His patriotism and service record in the military and to this area clearly stand out in the community.