In Memory of
U.S. Army Corporal Humboldt, South Dakota
Minnehaha County

June 30, 1931 - August 16, 1954
Died of non-hostile causes in Washington State


Sylvester B. Kolbeck (Bessie) was born in Salem, South Dakota, on June 30, 1931, to Anton and Mary Kolbeck. He was the fourth oldest of eleven children: Donald, Robert, Eugene, Mildred, Delores, Marian, LaVonne, LaVera, Janette, and Rozanne. He lived in the Salem area and attended St. Mary's elementary school in Salem until 1939, when his parents moved to a farm near Humboldt. He helped his parents with the farm and went to school at St. Ann's Catholic school. Sylvester enjoyed having fun, with family and friends. He was hard working, and a fun-loving guy. He also enjoyed hunting pheasants.

Cpl. Sylvester Kolbeck was drafted into the army on January 6, 1953. He was a member of the 513th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, Battery D. Cpl. Kolbeck had come home on leave in July 1954, and had become engaged.

Cpl. Sylvester Kolbeck was killed on August 16, 1954, at O' Brien, Washington, when he was helping erect a radio antenna. The radio wire he was holding came in contact with a 2400-volt circuit line. Cpl. Kolbeck was thrown to the ground and artificial respiration was given immediately, but to no avail. Cpl. Kolbeck was to have been discharged in December 1954. In a letter to his parents, his commanding officer, Captain Harold P. Hawkins, writes:

During the time that Sylvester has been a member of this command, his devotion to his church has been constant. Only recently we were talking of his attendance at Catholic mass and he stated that he had only missed one mass on one occasion since his entry in the Service. His zealousness has been an inspiration to his comrades.

As a member of this command, your son was well liked by all of his associates. He was an excellent soldier, performing all tasks assigned to him in a cheerful and efficient manner. His death came as a real shock to all who knew him, and his loss will be felt keenly in the organization. It has been determined under Government regulations that his death was sustained in the line of duty.

Cpl. Sylvester Kolbeck was awarded the National Defense Service Medal. Cpl. Sylvester B. Kolbeck was laid to rest in the Humboldt Catholic Cemetery. At the time of this writing, he is survived by his brother Eugene of Dell Rapids, South Dakota; and his sisters, Mildred Heiberger, Salem, South Dakota; Delores Stevens, Brainerd, Minnesota; Marian Velder, Canton, South Dakota; La Vonne Munce, Hartford, South Dakota; LaVera Gustaf, Rock Rapids, Iowa; Janette Krier, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Rozanne Hanisch, Hartford, South Dakota.

Joshua David Merriman, 7th grade, Stanley County Middle School, Fort Pierre, South Dakota, April 21, 2004 submitted this entry. Janette Krier, sister to Cpl. Sylvester B. Kolbeck, provided the information and approved the entry.