Ardeth Sidney Bennett Kocourek passed away peacefully on May 9, 2017, after fighting pneumonia and heart failure. She is survived by her sister, Iris Colleen Eriksen of Dows, Iowa; a daughter, Kitty Griffin and husband Mac of Sublette, Kan.; a son Elden Kocourek and wife Erin of Colorado Springs, Colo.; a son Thomas Kocourek and wife Marcia of Shoreview, Minn.; a son John Kocourek and wife Laura of Box Elder, S.D.; a son Steven Kocourek and wife Carrie of East Dubuque, Ill.; a daughter Klara Kocourek of St Paul, Minn.; numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and many friends and colleagues.
Ardeth was born June 25, 1928, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She grew up in Dows, Iowa, graduated from Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa), and received a Master of Arts degree from New York University in New York City. She was very active in the Presbyterian Church throughout her life. She first taught through the Presbyterian Mission at the Ganado, Ariz., Navajo School. Soon after, she trained to do mission work at Presbyterian Churches in Cuba but she did not make it to Cuba as a result of the Castro rise and ended up coming to South Dakota. Initially, Ardeth worked with a group assisting vacation Bible Schools at Presbyterian Churches in Tuthill and Martin, and was hosted by the Bennett County Superintendent of Schools, Dorothy Rice. Shortly thereafter she was offered a teaching position in Bennett County High School, permanently moving to Martin in 1953. Around that time she met and married Frank Kocourek Jr. They moved to the farm purchased from his parents in western Bennett County where they lived for many years. Ardeth continued to operate the farm for several years after Frank passed away and then moved into town in the early 2000s.
Ardeth was an unwavering servant to this community with many notable accomplishments. She was very proud of her many years helping the youth of Bennett County. This included teaching multiple generations of students at BCHS, where she was selected as Teacher of the Year. For years she also enjoyed influencing young people as a local and state 4-H leader. She was active in local extension clubs, was named as a “South Dakota Eminent Homemaker” by the S.D. Extension service, and held many leadership positions in the Lindsay Memorial Presbyterian Church. Ardeth was also a member of the Presbytery of S.D. Emergency Response Team and commissioner of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies serving on several committees. She was a commissioned Lay Pastor in the Presbyterian Church for over 10 years, serving churches in Martin, Tuthill, Pierre, Lemon, and Gordon. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the Lone Willow Chapter, a member of the S.D. State Library commission for 10 years, and selected as the DIANA Woman of the Year. Many of these accomplishments led to May 24, 1994, which was proclaimed “Ardeth Kocourek Day” by the Governor of S.D. She somehow found time to teach piano lessons to many young people in the community and sing in the Community Contata group nearly every year.
In addition to her service to the community, she and Frank ran their 900-acre farm outside Martin and raised their six children. She was truly a strong and independent woman with many talents, a dedicated lifelong teacher, and a servant to our Lord. She will be missed.
A public visitation and community service will be held at the American Legion Post 240 on Friday, June 2 from 1 to 3 p.m. Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to: Karen Ewold Kruse KDP Education Quasi-endowed Scholarship of the University of Northern Iowa Foundation, 205 Commons, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0282.
Bennett County Funeral Service is in charge of arrangements.