As an immigrant from Denmark, Inger Koedt has lived in Jackson, Wyoming, for the last 66 years. She’s said to be Teton County’s oldest resident, according to the Senior Center of Jackson Hole.
Born in Denmark in 1915, Inger Koedt grew up spending most of her time with her father in their greenhouse where she learned to love the outdoors.
“My parents, they were pretty old fashioned,” Inger Koedt said. “My father was an outdoor person; my mother wasn’t at all. So, I went with my father.”
When looking at an old photo of her childhood home, completely surrounded by plants, Inger Koedt pointed out the people featured in it: her sister, her father-in-law and a few others. She recalled a ladder that reached the left window of the second floor.
A childhood home could be a place where so many good memories emerge, but in Inger Koedt’s case, a home is attached to bad ones too.
One night, while her family slept, a robber climbed that ladder to the second floor. When he was discovered by Inger Koedt’s father, the burglar didn’t hesitate to pull out a gun and shoot. In the blink of an eye, life for Inger Koedt changed. There, outside her childhood house, Inger Koedt held her father in her lap as he took his very last breath.
“It was hard because I was kind of closer to my father than my mother,” Koedt said.
A few years later, through one of her best friends, she met her sweetheart, an American named Andres, or Bobs.
“I liked him the first time I saw him,” Inger Koedt said.
With permission from her mother Bobs and Inger Koedt married young. Together, in Denmark, they raised three children in the middle of World War II.
Soon they joined the Danish Resistance, hiding and smuggling over 30 families throughout the war. The Koedts transported each Jewish family from their home in Charlottenlund, Denmark, to Sweden by boat.
“It was a lot more dangerous for my parents during the war,” said Anne Koedt, Inger Koedts’ daughter, in an email. “At one point my dad had to go underground during the war, and my mom had to flee in the winter to our little summerhouse with us kids because of fear of being taken by the Nazis.”
Suspicions grew around the Koedts and one day, without warning, Nazi soldiers entered the Koedts’ home. Their family sat at the kitchen table accompanied by the Jewish families they harbored. Inger Koedt claimed they were family visiting.
In response, her children turned and asked, “Are these the Nazis we’re supposed to lie to, Mommy?”
Inger Koedt believed in teaching her children good morals, including the fact that lying was unacceptable — unless they are Nazis.
With an incident like this, suspicions increased and Bobs Koedt was called to Copenhagen for an interrogation. Inger Koedt feared their time together would be short-lived. However, Bobs Koedt was intent on convincing the Nazis that he couldn’t care about anyone else, much less the Jews.
To do so, Bobs figured the best way of doing this was to dress like a dandy — according to Inger this meant dressing in the most flashy, ridiculous and flamboyant clothes he could find.
Inger Koedt kissed her husband goodbye, thinking her last memory of him would be his bright yellow, plaid suit.
Bobs Koedt safely returned home soon after the interrogation.
Though the Koedt’s efforts seemed small, they, along with their fellow resistance members, ensured the safety of over 7,000 Danish Jews.
The Danish Resistance’s help was “the most successful action of its kind during the Holocaust”, according to History.com.
A few years after the war ended, the Koedt family moved to the United States. After a month of sailing, they arrived in Palo Alto, California.
The family didn’t stay long in California. Bobs Koedt’s work sent them to Jackson, Wyoming, a place that Inger Koedt fell in love with almost instantaneously.
In Jackson, she created most of the original recipes for the Mangy Moose, a place many skiers would go to refuel. Despite leaving her past in Denmark, she didn’t let WWII die with Hitler.
Believing it would keep children informed of history, the good and the bad, Inger Koedt visited schools in the Teton Valley to share her story.
Inger Koedt, along with many other women, formed what they called the Brown Bag Lunch group, dedicated to helping women, youth and earth conservation.
“This is some of her good, progressive girlfriends that were movers and shakers of the world, trying to affect the community in positive ways,” said Sylvia Vroman, Koedt’s 24-hour nurse. “These women are some of the smartest, highly educated people that were impactive on society here in Jackson.”
One of the women Inger Koedt worked alongside was Margaret “Mardy” Murie, known as the Grandmother of the Conservation Movement.
The older Inger Koedt got, the more active she seemed to be. By the time she was 60, people lined up to watch her climb the Grand Tetons. This continued for 15 years.
“She finally told them, ‘You know, this is kind of boring, I don’t want to do it anymore’,” Vroman said. “(She’s) always had a sense of adventure.”
After helping in World War II, aiding in conservation and social activism, embracing climbing and skiing, publishing a cookbook at 100 years old and raising children, Inger Koedt is the type of woman who smiles in the face of death.
“She’s the type of person that kicks your butt over the fence to get stuff done, to not belittle the thoughts God puts in your head,” Vroman said. “That you should never sit on your laurels when things need doing. And (she) always tells me, caring about people is so important at all stages.”
With a smile on her face, Inger Koedt looks at her picture book, reminiscing the many memories of her loving father, helping the world with her friends and building igloos with her son. Inger Koedt is the type of woman to know that a single person can make a difference in the world.
She has and always will approach things with one thought in mind, “die trying.”