In South English he attended a one-room country school and graduated from high school in 1949. Eldon learned to love farming and rural life during this time and was known for trying, unsuccessfully, to drive the new tractor over a frozen pond. – Gusto.
Eldon attended McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas, where he met and married Kathlyn Larson on August 10, 1952. After graduation in 1953, the newlyweds moved to Brigham City, Utah. They provided religious education for Navajo students at Intermountain School, as part of the Brethren Volunteer Service. An opportunity to stay in Utah presented itself and they decided to embark on a future different from the one they had envisioned. – Gusto.
For much of the next 25 years in Brigham City, Eldon was the director of the Protestant Student Center, which included everything from religious education and program administration, to building maintenance, to social and recreational activities for students such as canoeing, hiking, camping, and snowshoeing. Student Center programs and activities, under Eldon’s direction, eventually expanded beyond Intermountain School to include the wider community.
Eldon and Kathlyn raised three kids: Hazel, Carol, and David. With them, he shared many leisure time activities including much play and work in the large yard and garden, building any number of wood items large and small, tinkering in general, and making weekly sourdough waffles. He enjoyed skiing and snow tubing in winter and, on at least one occasion, he went snow tubing near midnight with his son, David, and the family dog, by the light of the full moon. – Gusto.
The couple, now empty-nesters, returned in 1982 to the farm where Kathlyn was raised near Cabool, Missouri. Eldon then served as pastor with the Cabool Church of the Brethren until 1991 when he had the opportunity to return to his home congregation in Iowa as pastor of the English River Church of the Brethren. In 1995 he and Kathlyn welcomed a Polish exchange student, Aldona Rozpondek, who became like another daughter. Aldona and Eldon communicated regularly by phone up to the time of his death, and Aldona says they “could talk about anything.”
Eldon retired in 1996 and returned to the Missouri farm where he and Kathlyn remained active in the community. Kathlyn died suddenly in 2008 and has been sorely missed but Eldon continued to enjoy the arts and theatre that were so important to both of them. On the day before Eldon died, Labor Day, he was feeling kind of low, but headed outside anyway because he loved “tractor time” and the hay needed to be fluffed. That evening he remarked that “it was a good day” and how much better he felt while he was on the tractor. – Gusto indeed.
Eldon always enjoyed a good discussion and might leave the conversation whistling. He looked forward to “Prairie Home Companion,” British mystery programs on PBS, and educational audio lectures whenever he was on the road. To his family’s knowledge he never swore or said that he was bored and they cannot remember that he ever held a grudge. He set a fine example for a life well lived.
Eldon leaves behind daughter Hazel and husband Elliott Lips in Salt Lake City, Utah, and granddaughter, Kathlyn; daughter Carol Mollhagen and husband Brian in Cabool, and granddaughters, Noelle and Ariel; son David Kee and wife Daphna in Walnut Creek, California, and granddaughter Jennavive and grandson Shawn; siblings Paul Coffman in South English, Iowa, and Sara Ann Bittinger in Vernonia, Oregon; and also much loved nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Eldon’s life will take place starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, September 24, at Cabool Church of the Brethren, 1003 Garst Avenue, Cabool, MO 65689. In lieu of flowers Eldon had requested that any memorials be directed to Cabool Church of the Brethren or to Shady Grove Community Club. Eldon’s cremains will be interred at Pleasant Grove Cemetery. Cremation arrangements were under the direction of Elliott-Gentry-Carder Funeral Home of Cabool, MO.
Online condolences may be made at www.egcfuneralhome.com.