SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Over the years, we’ve told you about a World War II fighter pilot and original member of the South Dakota Air National Guard. We are sad to report, Claude Hone has died.
KELOLAND News previously reported a friend confirmed the 99-year-old veteran died Tuesday night. He’s leaving behind a long legacy in the area he called home, and his generosity will help younger generations for years to come.
“We were young and we weren’t scared,” Claude Hone said in a past KELOLAND News interview.
For most of his life, Hone flew high above the rest.
“We always said let’s go in battle. Who wants to live to be a white-haired old man any how,” Hone said.
Even in the winter of his life, Hone always had a spring in his step. He was the first licensed realtor in South Dakota, and a decorated WWII Marine fighter pilot. About two weeks ago, motorcycles guided him to a VIP event at the South Dakota Air National Guard ahead of the Sioux Falls Air Show.
“What an amazing gentleman,” Mike Murphy, Camp Leif Ericson director, said.
Up until recently, Hone was as spry as ever. However, earlier this summer, his daughter told us he fell and hit his head. Hone accomplished a lot, and was tremendously successful. It wasn’t always that way. Actually, there was something he sadly never got to do. He never got to go to Camp Leif Ericson as a child.
“I could not afford to go. I wanted to go so bad, but back in those days my folks could not afford to send me,” Hone said in the spring.
That’s why the 90-year member of the YMCA routinely donated money so other kids could go.
“A man who’s been very successful in his life, but to realize the background he came from and the struggles he endured to get to where he was is a pretty amazing story,” Murphy said. “To make sure kids got to come to camp just speaks volumes about what a great individual he was.”
Hone made a significant donation to fix the camp after spring storms damaged it.
“I’ll do anything to help this camp. I wish I could help physically, but at my age, I keep going, but I can’t do the manual work anymore. I can’t go out and lift those icebergs,” Hone said, laughing.
With a good laugh, and a kind heart, the fact that Hone stayed so grounded is the reason he still flies high above the rest.
“In the morning, I get up, instead of saying, Good God, it’s morning, I say, Good morning, God. What have you got for me today,” Hone said.
Murphy says board members met on Wednesday, and are trying to come up with a way to make sure he remains a part of Camp Leif Ericson.