Robert Francis Karolevitz, age 89, of Yankton, SD and formerly of Mission Hill, died Friday, June 17, 2011 at Avera Sister James Care Center, Yankton.
A Memorial Mass will be at 10:30 AM, Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Yankton. Burial of his cremated remains will be in the Sacred Heart Cemetery, with Military Rites by the Ernest-Bowyer VFW Post #791, Yankton, and the SDARNG, Sioux Falls. Visitations will begin at 2:00 PM, Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at the Opsahl-Kostel Funeral Home and Crematory, with a 7:30 PM Scripture Service and video tribute. Visitations will resume one hour prior to the service Wednesday at the church.
Bob was born in Yankton to Frank and Martha (Rathjen) Karolevitz on April 26, 1922. He attended Sacred Heart School for eight years and graduated from Yankton High School in 1940.
He graduated from South Dakota State University in 1947 with a B.S. in printing and rural journalism and history. He later served as president of the SDSU Alumni Association and was honored with its Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 1950, he received his Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon.
Bob married Phyllis Gunderson on January 4, 1951 in Yankton. Their daughters, Jan Marie and Martha Jill, were born in Seattle, WA.
Bob was a veteran of the U.S. Army in World War II serving in the infantry in the Philippines and Japan with the 25th Infantry Division, later writing the official Division history. In 1950, he graduated first in his class at the Armed Forces Public Information School at Carlisle Barracks, PA. He was recalled for duty in the Korean War, first stationed at the Seattle Port of Embarkation. While there, he set up pier welcomes and ticker tape parades for returning Korean War veterans. He was later sent to Korea and served at 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul for several months.
Upon his return from Korea, and subsequent honorable discharge from the Army, he became a free lance writer for all of his professional career. While in Seattle he did publicity work for several advertising agencies and the 1962 Seattle World Fair. He was also a political ghost writer and newspaper columnist.
In 1967, Bob, Phyllis and daughters moved back to South Dakota. They bought Cedar Crest Farm near Mission Hill where they resided for the 37 years and Bob continued to write, authoring 37 books and thousands of magazine articles and newspaper columns for the Yankton County Observer, the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan and other South Dakota publications. He also traveled all over the U.S. as a public speaker.
Bob and Phyllis moved to Yankton in 2005 after Bob was diagnosed with atypical Parkinson’s disease.
Bob served as president and member of the S.D. State Historical Society for many years. He was also on the board of the S.D. Art Museum in Brookings and was the proud recipient of the Wrangler Statuette from the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City for “Where Your Heart Is,” his biography of artist Harvey Dunn.
He received the Polish Gold Cross Award in Chicago from then Premier (in exile) of Poland for his book “Flight of Eagles”. Among his many other awards he received: Author of the Year from the S.D. Council of Teachers of English; the A.H. Pankow Media Award; S.D. Governor’s Award for History; the prestigious Robinson Award; Service to Mankind Award from the Yankton Sertoma Club and Distinguished Alumnus of Sacred Heart School. He was one of the first inductees into the S.D. Newspaper Hall of Fame. Bob was named Yankton’s Citizen of the Year in 1998 and in 2005 received an Honorary Doctorate from SDSU.
Bob served as chairman of many state health planning organizations and while president of the board of Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, he was instrumental in establishing the Dr. Clark Johnson Memorial Fund, which evolved into the Benedictine Health Foundation. One of his books was the history of Sacred Heart Hospital, called, “A Commitment to Care.”
Bob and Phyllis traveled extensively throughout the U.S., both for pleasure and research. They also traveled to Europe, Canada, and Mexico and took several cruises.
Bob is survived by his wife, Phyllis, Yankton; daughter Jan and her husband Patrick Garrity and grandson Samuel Robert Garrity, Yankton; daughter Jill Karolevitz and her special friend James “Pete” Peterson, Mission Hill; sister Mary and her husband Robert Barr, Langley, WA; brothers-and sisters-in-law Jack and Diane Gunderson, Yankton, and George and Jean Gunderson, Mesa, AZ; and several nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Martha Karolevitz and sister Ruth (Vince) Hagen.
Memorials may be directed to the Bob and Phyllis Karolevitz Journalism Scholarship Fund at SDSU, the Bob and Phyllis Karolevitz Scholarship Fund at Sacred Heart School (Yankton), the Benedictine Health Foundation at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, or the memorial of your choice.
Yankton Press & Dakotan
June 21, 2011