Army veteran from Latrobe inspired, encouraged his family
With rolling waves and powerful currents, the ocean can be a scary and dangerous place.
“He had a way of making us all feel very safe, and made it clear that nothing is going to go on here,” David Elder said of his father, John. “While it might be new, or it might be a challenge, it's going to be OK.”
David Elder is now a full-time life guard in North Carolina's Outer Banks, carrying on his father's love and respect for the open water.
“He was never really one of those people who said, ‘don't.' He would always say, ‘try this,' ” Elder said.
John H. Elder III, 83, of Latrobe died Friday, May 25, 2018, at UPMC Presbyterian hospital.
Born in Pittsburgh on March 10, 1935, he was the son of Margaret Riesmeyer and John H. Elder Jr.
After graduating from Wilkinsburg High School, Mr. Elder went on to attend Penn State University. He later transferred to Washington & Jefferson College, where he majored in political science.
It was during that time he met his wife of nearly 58 years, Kathryn Elder, at a social mixer at Chatham College, where she was a student.
Washington & Jefferson students weren't invited, but he showed up anyway, Kathryn Elder said. It was her first week on campus and she had not planned to go to the party, but joined at the urging of classmates. She described him as a people person and an optimist.
“He was always looking for a way to be different, and not do what anyone else would expect,” she said.
Despite having no experience, Mr. Elder played football for Washington & Jefferson and received two offers to play professionally. He instead went on to join the Army, working as a cryptographer. He served on active duty for two years and in the reserves for two more.
He later worked as an adjustor for several insurance companies, retiring from Penn National Insurance in 2000.
Family members describe Mr. Elder as a loving, encouraging person who was fascinated by people and could carry on a conversation with anyone.
“He was very fun, and he was nice to talk to with all ages. If you were a 3-year-old, it would still be nice to talk to him,” said Margaret Rose Elder, Mr. Elder's 11-year-old granddaughter.
She recalled playing with her grandfather, wearing his glasses and pretending to be a librarian while he checked out books pulled from the living room book shelves.
The games made her feel like an adult, she said, and her grandfather's stories made her interested and curious about the world.
Mr. Elder is survived by his wife, Kathryn McLaughlin Elder; his daughter, Alta Elizabeth Elder of Latrobe; and sons John H. Elder IV of Latrobe and David Matthew Elder of Nags Head, N.C.; as well as two grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 331 Weldon St., Latrobe.
Memorial contributions can be made to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church or to the Greater Latrobe Art Conservation Trust, 131 High School Road, Latrobe.