101 year old World War II veteran continues to inspire

Amidst the crowd was one of the two living World War II veterans left in the county, Gerald Dede.
Published: Nov. 11, 2023 at 6:13 PM CST
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Codington County beams with pride for their country. A packed house at the Codington County Extention Complex took part in a Veterans Day ceremony on Saturday featuring members of almost every branch of the military. Amidst the crowd was one of the two living World War II veterans left in the county, Gerald Dede.

“Oh, I don’t think there’s too much for them to know about me,” Dede said with a chuckle.

He is a humble man with more of a story to tell than he may realize. Originally from Bryant, South Dakota, Dede made his way to Sioux City, Iowa for welding school before getting drafted into the United States Army.

“I took my basic training in chemical warfare and they didn’t use that over there, thank God for that,” described Dede.

After basic training at Camp Sibert Alabama, he served in North Africa and Italy in the 702nd Petroleum Distribution Unit where he worked on pipelines. After his time in the military, Dede was a farmer in Hamlin County until his retirement in 1993. In 2008 he and his wife Ardell moved to Watertown. Ardell passed away in August of last year. Two months later, Gerald celebrated his 100th birthday and Governor Noem proclaimed October 19, 2022, as Gerald Dede Day. Now, at 101 years old, he still has plenty of life left.

“I feel good,” Dede smiled. “Still got all my marbles. I took my driver’s test here about a couple of weeks ago. I passed that examination, so I can drive five more years.”

Still operating a car and still inspiring those he interacts with, including Mike Tanner, a news director at KWAT radio in Watertown and an unlikely friend.

“We moved to Watertown back in 2009 and we moved into a twin home,” Tanner said. “Our neighbors were separated only by a wall, of course, and our neighbors happened to be Gerald and Ardell Dede. My wife and I struck up a friendship with Gerald.”

Dede still has plenty of family around, but his former neighbors have become family to him, too. Tanner looks up to Dede for the character he displays.

“He’s an inspiration not only by what he’s done and he’s accomplished, but by the life he’s lived and how he treats people,” Tanner explained. “There’s no one that could say a bad word about Gerald. He’s just a salt-of-the-earth person. He treats everyone he meets with dignity and respect and frankly, he’s an idol of mine. There’s no doubt about that.”

Veterans Day gave Tanner all the more reason to show his gratitude for Dede’s service and especially his friendship.

“Oh, it makes me very happy to know that some came up and shook hands with me and thanked me for what I did,” said Dede.

“I am deeply indebted to Gerald and every veteran out there every day, but especially on Veterans Day,” said Tanner.