Originally created 01/06/02

Featured obituary: Mr. Harold Elseth Jr.

Even the man who prepared Harold Elseth Jr.'s final resting place at Westover Cemetery remembered the Martinez resident from talking home repairs with him at Lowe's.

Mr. Elseth was twice retired. He retired from the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a first sergeant in the early 1980s, then moved with his wife, Libby, and his two daughters, Marjorie and Melanie, to Augusta.

He became a craftsman and a manager for multiple departments at various Lowe's Home Improvement stores in the area.

"People would come in to make a purchase, and they would ask for Harold," said Mr. Elseth's son-in-law Mel La Pan. "If he wasn't there, they would ask when he was going to be back."

Described as a little, scrawny boy with asthma, Mr. Elseth proved doubters wrong early in life when he scored the winning point at a high school championship basketball game in the 1940s.

"He lived a storybook life," Mr. La Pan said.

Mr. Elseth died in his sleep Tuesday. Earlier that day, he went to Lowe's with his grandchildren Melvin and Ethan.

"Some of his old customers were coming up to him asking him for help," Mr. La Pan said. "He could tell you anything you needed to know about a refrigerator. When people bought something, he would deliver it on his lunch hour with his own pickup truck."

Mr. La Pan said he recalled telling his father-in-law, "You still do better work around the house than anyone else."

Some relatives traveled from as far away as Washington state to celebrate the life of Mr. Elseth, who hailed from Stratch Corner, Minn.

Earlier this year, Mr. Elseth had to make his own trip to mourn the loss of a family member.

When Mr. Elseth's nephew Bobby, a Naval officer, died at the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Elseth went to Washington for the memorial.

"That was very difficult for Harold," Mr. La Pan said. "The military was a point of pride for him."

As part of one of the Army's original special forces, the 77th Group, Mr. Elseth was a Green Beret before President Kennedy authorized the title, Mr. La Pan said.

In 1955 and 1956 when Hungary and Czechoslovakia fell, Mr. Elseth was there behind enemy lines in civilian clothes to blend in with the population.

"He wouldn't ever really get into what he did because it was classified," Mr. La Pan said.

He also served a couple of tours in Vietnam as an adviser to the South Vietnamese military.

"He was a great patriot. He built a flag pole out of a telescoping antenna and put it in his front yard in the mid-1980s," Mr. La Pan said. "It's at half-mast today."

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.


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