De Smet native turns 100

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

 

Bud Belzer turned 100 on May 29, but he's not pounding his chest about reaching the elusive century mark. For him, it is all about his family and how rewarding his life continues to be.

 

"You can't imagine. Everything has just been a blessing, always just one lovely bit of action after another," Belzer said while sitting in his room at Westhills Village assisted living facility.

 

The Rapid City resident is one of about 250 centenarians in state, according to census U.S. figures. South Dakota has the second-highest number of people 100 years old or older at 2.95 per 10,000. North Dakota tops the list at 3.29.

 

For Belzer, who lives with his 99-year-old wife, Irene, at the center, the diminishing senses of hearing and sight that come with aging mean little when compared to the joy of his four children, a successful marriage and a childhood growing up on a South Dakota farm.

 

The only secret Belzer reveals on this day for his 10 decades of enduring health is that he goes to bed at 7 p.m. every day. Then, he returns to his favorite topic: his four children, two of whom live in Rapid City, one in Florida and another in Missouri.

 

The Rapid City clan has dinner together every Friday. His great-grandson was given his middle name and baptized in Rapid City.

 

"We get calls everyday from our local families," Belzer said. One daughter phones him at 6:30 p.m. every day. Another calls every Sunday.

 

When Belzer turned 100 on May 29, his family celebrated his health, age and 75 years of marriage to Irene. Belzer sees his life as carefree at this point. All four children have college degrees and good jobs, he said.

 

"When you don't have to worry, it makes a big difference," Belzer said. "Nothing to fret about, nothing to worry about."

 

Belzer grew up on a farm near De Smet in eastern South Dakota and earned a degree in civil engineering in 1934 from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Three generations of Belzers have graduated from Mines.

 

Belzer volunteered for the Navy when World War II started and within a few years had been promoted to lieutenant commander. He participated in the invasions of Sicily, Italy and Normandy. Despite the hardship of war, Belzer said the experience was invaluable.

 

"I learned an awful lot. Some of it was a little bitter, some of it was a little tough. It was all tremendously wonderful people," he said.

 

After the war, Belzer started a construction company based in De Smet, which he ran for about the next 35 years. He retired in the mid-1980s and moved to Rapid City in 1986 to live near two of his children and the warm memories of his college days.

 

When he talks, Belzer mostly keeps his hands folded in his lap. He speaks methodically, periodically squinting his eyes closed and pausing as he assembles the words.

 

"Our health has been good. Neither of us can see well anymore. We do not hear well anymore. People are all just very nice to us," he said.

 

Aaron Orlowski

Dec. 29, 2012

Rapid City Journal

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