Joseph V. Eder, a Baltimore electrician who never forgot the boyhood friend who saved his life during a World War II invasion, died Thursday of cancer at his home in Eastpoint. He was 74.
His World War II combat experiences resulted in a lifetime of serving veterans and their organizations for Mr. Eder, who boxed and studied law at the University of Baltimore after the war.
Giving up his law studies, he became an electrician who worked in construction as a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 28, until retiring in 1986.
He was involved in veterans' affairs and was past commander of the Henry Ludwig American Legion Post No. 139 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 6506, where he was described as being "the spirit of the post." As a service officer, he helped members who needed medical equipment.
"He was an old-fashioned patriot who believed in the flag and honoring his World War II buddies, whom he never forgot," said his boyhood friend, Baltimore lawyer and frequent Republican candidate Sam Culotta.
It was with Mr. Culotta that Mr. Eder experienced a life-saving encounter that for years he often recounted.
He and Mr. Culotta, then a Navy medic, bumped into one another aboard a ship heading for the invasion of Saipan in the Mariana Islands in June 1944.
"We were next-door neighbors as kids growing up on North Broadway," Mr. Culotta recalled. "We played ball together. We ,, were in the same clubs. We played on the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks nearby. They were our playground.
"It was the Depression, and we used to pick up coal that fell from the coal trains to take home to our mothers. And suddenly, here he is on the A.P.A. Neville."
Mr. Eder, who attended St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic School and vocational school, joined the Navy in 1942 and served as an electrician's mate aboard the landing craft that conveyed troops to the beaches.
"Sam saved my life at Saipan," he told The Sun in an interview in June. "He was a hero."
Mr. Eder was mistaken for a Japanese soldier by a nervous sailor who pointed an M-1 rifle at him. "I was so short and suntanned and wore horn-rimmed glasses. Sam knocked him down before he could shoot. He'd have shot me right in the head."
"I dismissed it," Mr. Culotta said, "But he never forgot it. He always mentioned it wherever we went. He always felt that it was so important, and I felt kind of awkward about it. He just came close. That's all. Close."
5l Of his wartime experiences, Mr. Eder, told the newspaper, "I wouldn't want to trade it for any four years of my life. But I wouldn't want to repeat it."
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Mr. Eder was an amateur boxer who used the name Vernon Eder.
"Always a gentle man, as a boxer he could take more heat and punishment than most men. They would have to stop the fights because of cuts over the eye," Mr. Culotta said.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Hartley Miller Funeral Home, 7527 Harford Road.
Survivors include his wife of 39 years, the former Rose Beyer; a son, Donald C. Eder; a daughter, Rose C. Kieltsch, all of Eastpoint; a brother, Edgar Eder of Rosedale; a sister, May Chard of Eastpoint; four grandsons; and two great-grandchildren.