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Remembering Mr. Gene Eiden: A Letter from Ms. Mary Spring

Dear RCS Community,

It is with great sadness that our school community mourns the loss of Mr. Gene Eiden, a teacher, director, trumpeter and Lourdes’ first full-time band director. Mr. Eiden dedicated 36 years of his life to Lourdes High School. He passed away on December 24th, 2023 at the age of 93.

We remember Mr. Eiden in his dedication to his students. Mr. Eiden began teaching at Lourdes in 1957 and retired in 1993. During his tenure, he began the Lourdes Highlighters Jazz band, directed the Marching Band and conducted the Concert Band. Mrs. Mary Ann Remick, a 1960 Lourdes graduate, parent and benefactor, recalls that “Gene Eiden was the ultimate ‘Music Man.’ He knew well how music and being part of a group, be it band or chorus, could transform a student’s life and experience at Lourdes High School. Gene was a positive ‘force’ in the lives of our daughter and sons during their time at Lourdes. They knew he cared for them and encouraged their growth as musicians and people - gifts that they have carried with them throughout their lives.” 

Mr. Eiden was a genuinely kind, upbeat, person who always shared his joy while sharing his musical talent. Helen Restovich, a former student of Mr. Eiden’s, and a Lourdes colleague from 1987-1993 remembers, how “He made our band class a time for fun, for learning and receiving his constant affirmation. I last heard Gene play his trumpet at the Lourdes Sports Hall of Fame in October of 2023. As always, the sound of his horn filled my heart with joy. He enriched so many lives with his music, his kindness, his laughter, and his loving support. He truly was a beloved leader of the band.”

Beyond the music department, Mr. Eiden was committed to supporting student athletes. He brought the pep band to many competitions as another way to support students in the school. In recognition of his efforts, an award was created in his honor which has been awarded every year since 2008 at the Sports Hall of Fame to an individual who has provided exceptional volunteer support to Lourdes’ Athletic programs. 

While I had seen and spoken to Mr. Eiden on many occasions during my twenty years at Lourdes, one moment comes to the forefront as a testament to Mr. Eiden’s life-long interest and commitment to his students. In the fall of 2022, the class of 1962 returned to Lourdes for their 60th high school reunion. As I was greeting the alums, Mr. Eiden walked in and said, “I like to attend as many reunions as I can to visit with my students and see what they’re up to now.” Mr. Eiden spent the tour telling stories, catching up with former students, and wanting to know what the current students were working on, a true testament to his investment in their well-being and their education. 

In addition to impacting the lives of so many Lourdes students, Mr. Eiden was well-known in the community. Mr. Eiden earned the Mayor’s Medal of Honor, Bishop’s Medal of the Diocese of Winona, and was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. It seemed as if everyone in Rochester knew not only him, but the Lourdes band because of him. Mr. Eiden’s sense of service was shared through the Lourdes community.  “He shared his strong sense of service with his students and so the Marching Band would participate in the city’s Memorial Day parades, the Highlighters would perform at nursing homes and the Center Street singers shared their gift of song in many school and community concerts,” recalls Mary Ann Remick. On his own time, Mr. Eiden played for church events and joined the American Legion Military Escort where he played “Taps” for military funerals across southeastern Minnesota. 

Even though Mr. Eiden retired in 1993, his commitment to the Lourdes music program continued up until his death. Peter Fourniea, current Lourdes choir director shares: “Gene was one of the biggest supporters of the Music Department and Lourdes High School in general. After an incredible career, it would be easy to retire and walk away, but he still came to concerts, gave tours of the new facilities to alumni, and wanted to know what we were up to in the department. He was always so enthusiastic, kind-hearted, complimentary, and humble.”

We will forever be grateful for the many ways that Mr. Eiden dedicated himself to the Lourdes community and the families our school serves. “Gene Eiden was a dear friend, role model and mentor,” remembers former Lourdes student, teacher and Principal, Dennis Nigon. “He was dedicated to his students, Lourdes High school, and the Rochester Community. He will be dearly missed.”

Visitation will be Friday, January 5th from 4pm-7pm at Macken Funeral Home. Visitation will also take place the following day, Saturday, January 6th  from 10am-11am, followed by the Funeral Mass at 11:00 am at Pax Christi Catholic Church with Fr. John Sauer presiding. 

Visitation and Funeral information can also be found here.

We also invite you to read his obituary here, as well as special features in the Post Bulletin and on KTTC-TV.

We continue to pray for Mr. Eiden, his family, and the students and families he has left a lasting impact on for years to come.

Ms. Mary Spring
Lourdes High School