On February 16, 1978, staff members at the national headquarters in Tulsa were preparing for the arrival of one of the organization’s founders, John H. Armbruster. He was to give detailed interviews about the rich heritage of the Junior Chamber movement.
The staff had just watched Armbruster’s videotaped image say he hopes the movement’s pioneers had left their footprints in the sands of time. Suddenly someone burst into the room with the news that Armbruster had died on a plane before it even left St. Louis. He had died on a mission to help his beloved organization.
In 1916, at the age of 21, Armbruster was serving as assistant secretary of the Young men’s Progressive Civic Association, writing notices to members about forthcoming meetings. His writings about what would become The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce continued nonstop for several decades and continue to serve as the authoritative account of much of the organization’s history.
In 1931, he originated the mythical ship “S.S. Fellowship” and started issuing The Log newsletter for past officers and other leaders later to be know as the “Crew of the S.S. Fellowship.” Armbruster used The Log as a way these past members to keep in touch instead of just dropping out. He always signed off with a quote and the words, “Keeper of the Log.”
He was named an honorary vice president of The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1936 and was reconfirmed to the post in 1949. Two years later, at the request of the Junior Chamber International president, he began issuing The Elder Statesman, for JCI alumni. JCI joined The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce in naming him official historian and, in 1967, added the title of honorary president for the worldwide body.
When a need existed in St. Louis, John Armbruster got involved. In addition to his extensive Junior Chamber involvements, he actively participated with a number of other organizations, including Boy Scouts, YMCA, Rotary International and the Salvation Army.
One of the highest awards bestowed by the Junior Chamber is the John H. Armbruster “Keyman” Award, given each year to five Jaycees who, following their first year of membership, have continued to show support, dedication and enthusiasm for the organization. That’s exactly what Armbruster himself did for most of his 83 years of life.