ESPY -- A group of World War II veterans who gather monthly for fellowship met in a new spot Thursday in Columbia County after fire destroyed their old gathering place.
Around 60 World War II veterans enjoyed lunch and conversation at the Espy Fire Company near Bloomsburg. The group meets every month, usually at the Creekside Family Restaurant in nearby Orange Township. That changed in February when a fire destroyed the place the veterans met every month for the last four years.
"A shock to all of us. We woke up and saw nothing there but a skeleton. We left a lot of memories behind," said John Paul.
"We all felt very saddened, not so much that the restaurant isn't there, but the owner. He is a fantastic individual," said Father Domenic Mammarella.
Members of the Espy Fire Company stepped in to help. Each month they plan to let the veterans use the fire hall for free, and volunteers with the fire company will prepare and serve them lunch.
"I just wanted to make sure as a fellow veteran, that they were taken care of. They are the greater generation and I'm happy to do it," said John Thomas.
The veterans pay for their own food. The fire company takes care of the rest. At their first luncheon since the fire, the owner of the Creekside Family Restaurant wrote the veterans a letter thanking them for their business and friendship.
"He was very hospitable to us and we really enjoyed meeting there," said Carroll Leibensperger.
The Susquehanna Valley World War II veterans said they will continue to enjoy each other's company every month at their new meeting spot.