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The year he turned 90, Gene Eiden played taps at more than 150 veterans' funerals.

It was what they deserved, he told others. He wouldn't think of letting a local veteran be buried to a recording — someone needed to play the bugle call live.

Eiden was the man to call whenever someone in Rochester needed music, be it a presidential visit or a home game at the local Catholic school. Rochester's own music man died at 93 on Christmas Eve.

"It was just his general enthusiasm and joy for music, seeing people be successful with music," Eiden's daughter Carol Stortz said. "He was just an upbeat kind of guy, no pun intended."

Eiden was a music teacher at Lourdes High School for more than 36 years. He grew up in rural Stearns County, got his teaching degree from St. John's University and joined the U.S. Army in 1953 for a two-year stint playing in the Army band.

Eiden and his wife, Frances, came to Rochester in the late 1960s and he worked as a music educator at the local Catholic school. They never left, finding the community a good fit for their family — and for Eiden's habit of providing live music.

His marching and pep bands would play at almost every home game and local parade imaginable. The school's dance band, the Lourdes Hi-Lighters, would play weddings and community dances across the area. Eiden even organized the welcoming band for then-President Richard Nixon's campaign stop in Rochester in 1972.

"He really believed in having his students play in front of people," Eiden's son Wayne Eiden said. "If he put his students in front of people, they would keep that music with them for life."

The bandleader was never known to say no. Chris Miller, a Lourdes graduate and longtime athletics coach for the school, remembers the time one of his cross country teammates convinced Eiden to bring the pep band to a meet in the mid-1970s.

"The gun goes off, and all of a sudden some kid from another team goes, 'What the heck is that?' as the band was playing our school song," Miller said. "A lot of us started laughing."

Eiden was as quick with a joke or a funny story as he was to pick up a trumpet; he once told his daughters the only reason he got into music was because the local hardware store clerk conned his parents toward buying the last coronet in stock, rather than the clarinet they wanted for him.

He never forgot his military background: After he retired in 1993, Eiden played as many American Legion or VFW events as possible, as well as every funeral service he could.

Eiden never slowed down, playing taps at funerals even as his health waned in his last years. His spirit never flagged, either — he played taps two days before he died, and his family said Eiden was still joking around in the hospital the day he passed.

"He always felt, even from early on, his life was so blessed," Stortz said. "Sharing that blessing was just a part of who he was."

Eiden is survived by his wife, son Wayne, daughters Stortz and Kay Kangas, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Services have been held.