Welcome to Captain Lester S. Wass Post 3 of the American Legion located at 8 Washington Street, Gloucester, MA. This site was created so our members, families and friends can easily access important information about our Post .
November 25, 2023
Nestor leads Legion’s holiday meal effort
‘Tireless leader’ Retiring
By Ethan Forman Staff Writer
After more than 10 years at the helm, Mark L. Nestor, the commander of the Capt. Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3, plans to retire in June.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t have his hands full this holiday season.
As part of the post’s Holiday Meals Program, Nestor was on hand Thursday for the annual Thanksgiving meal as it was being prepared and shipped out for delivery from the The Open Door food pantry on Emerson Avenue.
He plans to help the Washington Street post with its Christmas and Easter holiday meals, too.
“One of the things I’m proud of being post commander is that we have really expanded our services to the community, to its citizens, and the veterans big time,” Nestor said. The post serves a total 1,400 holiday meals a year for free in six communities.
Capt. Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 Commander Mark Nestor, who is retiring, talks with Legion Chaplin Paul Krueger as veterans and post members prepare food Thursday morning at The Open Door in Gloucester for the Legion’s annual free Thanksgiving Day dinners, which are delivered to shut-ins and those in need on Cape Ann and the North Shore. The Legion is serving almost 700 meals this holiday, up a few hundred from just a few years ago, according to Krueger.
Jeff Tarr uses a slicing machine to accurately portion out turkey, which will be part of a larger meal as veterans and members of the Captain Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 prepare food at The Open Door in Gloucester for the Legion’s annual free Thanksgiving Day dinners, which are delivered all over Cape Ann and the North Shore.
Nestor said he has a “legion of volunteers, but we need it between cooking, boxing, packing and driving, and nobody has a problem.”
This Thanksgiving, the post and its volunteers prepared almost 700 meals for delivery to people in Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich, Wenham and Hamilton, up several hundred from just a few years ago, Legion Chaplin Paul Krueger said.
To pick his successor, Nestor said the post has established a committee, but he said in an October interview it’s likely his senior vice commander, Joe Lombardo, will assume the reins when an election is held in May. He said the post has a strong group of officers.
“I laughingly say ‘I have a committee to replace me,’” he laughs.
Nestor, 75, a resident of Magnolia, is also retiring from his Middle Street law practice this fall.
Fighting for the Legion
A Vietnam veteran who flew helicopters in Vietnam from 1969-1970, Nester got heavily involved with the post about 10 years ago. He had been a member of the Disabled American Veterans post and at the time the Legion’s lease was up in the iconic Legion Memorial Building at 8 Washington St.
“And there was some concern about that the American Legion had somewhat quieted down,” he said. There were rumblings that city might take it over for an “arts area” with the Legion as a subtenant. The Legion has leased the historic building from the city for more than 100 years.
“I didn’t agree with that,” Nestor said. He stepped up and went before the City Council which renewed the post’s lease “and we stepped up to the plate,” he said.
In recent months, Nestor has been vocal about the need for the city to restore the building with its coat of peeling paint visible in the heart of downtown.
He even created a paintbrush fundraiser to raise money for the 1844 building’s restoration. The fundraiser netted more than $33,000 as the city goes about figuring out the scope of the work and how much the restoration might cost.
Krueger said Nestor was instrumental in bringing the traveling exhibit, The Wall That Heals, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to Gloucester in 2015.
Nestor has worked to keep the post open, especially during the tough times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Krueger said Nestor inspired his wife, Debora, and he to work to renovate the hall over the past couple of years. Nestor also recruited new members to join the post’s Sons of the American Legion organization, encouraging them to step up by sponsoring a free monthly Sunday breakfast for veterans.
“He’s an absolute leader in the true sense of the word,” Krueger said. Through Nestor’s influence, Krueger said his wife, an Army veteran, became the post’s adjutant.
Advocating for veterans
Nestor, who grew up in Pennsylvania, said he long faced the stigma against Vietnam veterans after the war, even from some veterans’ organizations.
“For 40 years, a lot of Vietnam vets hid in plain sight,” Nestor said.
When he came to Gloucester, he join the local DAV post. Still feeling scarred, he said he had the good fortune of meeting Navy veteran Anthony “Tony” Verga, the late former state representative who championed veterans causes, and who helped Nestor cope with his unresolved feelings from his service and the lack of a welcome home after all those years.
One of the first things Nestor did when he took over the post was to hold a welcome back dinner for Vietnam veterans.
“We filled the upstairs Legion hall and just invited Vietnam vets, ‘welcome home’.”
“Mark has been a tireless leader and advocate for the veterans’ community,” said Mayor Greg Verga, Tony Verga’s son, in an email. “I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t involved and giving back. His contributions will be appreciated long past his retirement.”
Verga thanked Nestor on behalf of the city for all he’s done.
“I think he’s definitely served his time. He has done so many good things for the Legion, helping rebuild it,” said Cape Ann Veterans Services Director Vionette “Vee” Chipperini who counts Nestor as a mentor.
Gloucester resident and Navy veteran Sandra Davis of Gloucester serves as the post’s judge advocate and as the department commander of the American Legion Department of Massachusetts.
“Commander Mark Nestor is an incredible asset to this community and the Capt. Lester S. Wass, American Legion Post 3,” she said in an email. “His tireless work on the Post 3 Holiday Meals Program is absolutely unparalleled. Although Mark’s stepping down as Post 3 commander next June, his legacy and vision will carry forward as he continues mentoring future Post 3 leadership.”
Nestor said “This community has been good to the veterans. I think they learned. It took a while.
“But there are so many veterans in this city. and there has been so much contribution by the veterans for all 400 years; this city welcomes veterans.”
Captain Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 Commander Mark Nestor, who is retiring, walks past a row of empty boxes that will be used to hold meals as veterans and post members prepare food at The Open Door in Gloucester for the Legion’s annual free Thanksgiving Day dinners, which are delivered all over Cape Ann and the North Shore. Nestor, who has passionately stewarded the Thanksgiving meals program, commanded his final crew Thursday as the Legion prepared almost 700 meals for delivery.