May 24, 1918 — Oct. 30, 2017
World War II veteran and longtime Astoria, Oregon, resident William C. “Bill” Elder passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 at the age of 99.
He was best known locally for his many years as one of the management personnel with Ocean Foods of Astoria Inc. He made several acquaintances of local fishermen and fisheries personnel up and down the West Coast and in Alaska.
Elder was born at home on May 24, 1918, in Portland, Oregon, to John R. Elder of Omaha, Nebraska, and Alice Fay (Hubbard) Elder of Mitchell, South Dakota. He had two sisters, one older, Mildred (Elder) Bridwell, and her husband, Walter Bridwell, who both preceded him in death; and one younger sister, Margaret (Elder) Woods, who survives. Her husband, Charles Woods, is deceased.
He attended elementary school in Oak Grove, Oregon, and graduated from Milwaukie High School in 1936. After high school, he attended business college, studying accounting/bookkeeping for one year at Oregon Institute of Technology, and for one year at Multnomah Junior College.
During that time he worked several different jobs which include Oak Grove Drug Store, Vern L. Wenger Radio & Appliance Store in Portland, as a lifeguard at Oswego Lake and in Gladstone on the Clackamas River. From 1939 to 1941, he taught swimming and lifesaving courses for Clackamas County.
On Jan. 2, 1942, he enlisted in the Coast Guard in Port Townsend, Washington, after the Dec. 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. During his time in the Coast Guard, he was first stationed stateside at the Point Adams Coast Guard Station in Hammond, Oregon. During his time at Point Adams, Elder received a Letter of Commendation from the Coast Guard commander after swimming from the Coast Guard Lifeboat Triumph, with the heaving line attached, through breakers, to a tuna boat stranded on Peacock Spit north of the Columbia River. After attaching the line, they were able to tow the boat to safety.
In late September 1942, he met his soon-to-be wife, Catherine N. Erickson, at a USO dance in Astoria; she preceded him in death in 2012. Shortly after they met, Elder was notified that he would be deployed to the South Pacific after the person who was supposed to go broke his arm. He had only a day’s notice to say his goodbyes, but vowed to keep in touch with Catherine.
He was stationed on the USS Hunter Liggett as the Navy mail clerk, with the rank of boatswain’s mate second class. He joined the Asiatic Pacific Campaign, South Pacific Area, and Solomon Island Campaign, Guadalcanal through Bougainville, receiving two Bronze Stars for his efforts there by operating the landing barges that brought the troops from the ship to the beach on Guadalcanal; then back to the American Area Campaign, where he received the World War II Victory Ribbon and Good Conduct Medal.
During his time in the South Pacific, he continued to write to Catherine, and proposed to her in one of his letters. She accepted his proposal, so he sent money to his sister to purchase the engagement ring, and while on leave in December 1943, they eloped on New Year’s Eve in Oregon City, where his sister, Mildred, and her husband served as witnesses.
After their marriage and the USS Hunter Liggett’s return to the United States, Catherine joined Bill in San Francisco, and later San Diego. In early 1945, they returned to Hammond, where Bill was again stationed at Point Adams Coast Guard Station, where he remained until his honorable discharge on June 3, 1946, in Seattle.
Elder and his wife made their permanent home in Astoria, where they raised their four children, William R. Elder, twins Richard A. Elder and Donald D. Elder, and their daughter Sandra K. (Elder) O’Kelley. Elder worked as a commercial fisherman in trawling and tuna operations, and served as secretary of the Otter Trawl Union.
In March 1948 he was hired by Sebastian Stuart Fish Co. in Astoria as office manager, but became more involved with operations of the plant. In 1966, he was named assistant manager when Sebastian Stuart changed hands, and Ocean Foods of Astoria was formed. He retired after 40 years with the company, and later was rehired on a retainer basis for seven years, overseeing several Ocean Beauty holdings along the West Coast and in Alaska, and was also associated with the Oregon Trawl Commission for six years.
Bill was involved in several civic and athletic activities. He played several years of fast-pitch softball with local teams, and while still in the Coast Guard at Hammond, he played both handball and racquetball at the YMCA, and later at Tongue Point after the Y closed. He was a 43-year member of the Astoria Golf and Country Club, resigning just this year; a 60-plus year member of the Astoria Elks Lodge BPOE No. 180; a longtime member of the Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans; a member of the Columbia River Maritime Museum; and, most recently, became the oldest member of the Clatsop Post 12 American Legion.
Elder is survived by his son, William R. and spouse, Marlene, and their children, William Jr., Rachel, Matthew, Leah, Daniel and Aaron, as well as their spouses, significant others and grandchildren; son Richard A. and spouse, Patricia, and their children, Peter, Scott and Sarah, as well as their spouses, significant others and grandchild; son Donald D. and his children, Jason and spouse, Kim, and Jennifer; and daughter Sandra K. and spouse, Shawn O’Kelley, and their children, John, Catherine, Nicole and Lindsay as well as their spouses, significant others and grandchildren; his wife’s sisters, Winifred Doran and Frances Crandall and spouse, George Crandall; and many nieces, nephews and friends.
Public viewing will be Friday, Nov. 3, from 10 a.m. to noon, with funeral services at 1 p.m., at Caldwell’s Luce-Layton Mortuary, 1165 Franklin Ave., in Astoria, Oregon. Private interment will follow immediately after the service.
A public celebration of life will be held later this month. Details will be posted in The Daily Astorian.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Columbia River Maritime Museum or a charity of your choice.
Please sign our online guest book at www.caldwellsmortuary.com