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Edward J. "Eddie" Kodet, Sr.

Edward J. "Eddie" Kodet, Sr., age 95 of Belvidere, S.D., died August 29, 2010, at the Hans P. Peterson Memorial Hospital in Philip.

Edward J. Kodet, Sr. was born in Belvidere to Joseph Frank Kodet and Mary Francis Kodet on October 16, 1914. He was born in the farmhouse on the homestead of Joseph Kodet and as a child he became known as Eddie. Eddie and his two older sisters, Helen Larsen (born 1910) and Marie Dartt (born 1912), grew up happily together on the farm just outside of Belvidere. Eddie spent time in the same farmhouse until his death.

Eddie attended grade school in Belvidere in 1920 and graduated from Belvidere High School in 1932. He grew up working on the farm and during his childhood he developed a strong interest in music. He learned to excel at the saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, and drums; but what he liked to do most was sing.

He began his career in music by playing saxophone for various local bands including the Judd Pepper Family Band and Don Brugman's The Dizzie Domino's. Wanting to establish his own style of music, Eddie started his first orchestra composed of seven members when he was just 21 (1935). Eddie Kodet and His Kadets was popular not only in the local dance halls, but also in Custer, Hill City, Rapid City, throughout South Dakota, northern Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. He enjoyed playing and cherished the many friends and lifelong friendships music provided.

Eddie had the fortune of meeting the new teacher in Belvidere named Marjorie Lueck. They were married by the Rev. J. Berning in Belvidere on June 2, 1942, at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church. They lived in town across from the school while Eddie worked on the farm with his dad and Marjorie taught grade school.

Eddie's military career began September 29, 1942, in Fort Crook, Neb. After training as an engineer and aerial gunner, he was given a combat crew assignment out of Clovis Air Base in New Mexico. Ten crew including Eddie were assigned a B-24 Liberator. Eddie flew many missions, but the most important was in April 1944, when the Allies determined it was necessary to attack the Ploesti Oil Fields. This mission as well as many others was not accompanied by fighter aircraft support. His plane took on flak and anti aircraft fire and went down over Bucharest, Romania. He was assaulted and captured on the ground and sent to prison camp. In the autumn of 1944 he was released when the Russians liberated Romania.

He took a boat from Naples, Italy to New York City and from there went to Minneapolis to stay with his wife just in time for the birth of their son, Edward Jr. on October 16, 1944, 30 years after Eddie's birthday. He remained in the service for one more year to undergo officer training and B-29 bomber training at the University of Urbana. He was honorably discharged in November 1945 and was awarded amongst many others: the Air Force medal for meritorious achievement, the Bronze Star for evacuating prisoners from a prison camp under fire in Bucharest and the Purple Heart for wounds received on a combat mission.

After the war, Eddie started a new dance band known as Eddie Kodet and His Orchestra. His dance band was as popular as ever and he continued to delight audiences for over 30 years. With a long legacy, Eddie decided to retire from traveling and playing in 1970. Eddie continued his music with the Belvidere Town Band which was formed in 1947, becoming director in 1950. They played at all major holiday celebrations, parades, school events, and summer concerts in the Belvidere Park Bandstand. The Belvidere band also played in many nearby towns including Kadoka, Murdo, Presho, Philip and Wall. The final performance was July 4, 1998, in Kadoka. Music was Eddie's passion, hobby and lifelong interest.

Eddie loved ranching and moved to the family farm in 1946. During this time they were also blessed with the birth of their daughter, Janet, in 1946. He never lost his interest in crops, cattle, and the land. He would drive through the herd and check the grain. The ranch has been in the family for over 100 years.

He served on the Jackson County ASC committee, the Belvidere school board and was the clerk for Belvidere Township. As a former POW, he was inducted into the South Dakota Aviation Combat Air Crew Hall of Fame at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and was a member of the American Legion, Association of Former Prisoners of War, a life member of the American Ex-Prisoners of War, Canyon Lake Senior Citizens Center and Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Kadoka, S.D.

A significant event in the last year included being a participant on the Honor Flight to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He was the oldest veteran on the Flight and was especially proud to meet and talk with Senator Bob Dole at the Memorial. He was interviewed by Kelo-land TV at the memorial. He was the last member of his B-24 crew.

He liked traveling and keeping current. He traveled and visited family and one of his great experiences was to attend a Glenn Miller concert in Minneapolis. Eddie's orchestra played many of the Glenn Miller recordings and these songs were among his favorites. The current band leader talked to Eddie about the Big Band Era.

He is lovingly survived by son Edward (Jan) Kodet of Minneapolis, Minn.; daughter, Janet (Melvin) Leitheiser of Stillwater, Minn., and grandchildren Daniel Kodet, Christopher Leitheiser, Lori (Mark) Gmeinder and Mark Leitheiser.

Eddie was preceded in death by his parents, sisters, and wife.

Visitation will be held from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Friday, September 3, at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Kadoka, with a vigil service at 7:00 p.m. Friday at the church.

Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, September 4, at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Kadoka, with Father Bryan Sorensen as celebrant.

Interment with military honors will be held at the Belvidere Cemetery.

Memorials may be sent to PO Box 219, Belvidere, SD 57521 and will be donated to the South Dakota Honor Flight.

Arrangements are with the Rush Funeral Chapel of Kadoka.

An online guestbook is available at www.rushfuneralhome.com