Joseph L. Elpel, loving husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather passed away on April 24, 2009 in Billings at the age of 88.
Born on September 17, 1920 in Glendive, MT, Joseph was the eldest of five children born to August and Mabel Elpel, growing up and worked on the family farm. After graduating from Dawson County High School at the age of 15 in 1936, Joseph headed off to Billings where he worked for a dairy and also apprenticed and worked as a plumber at Poly Tech (now known as Rocky Mountain College) where he assisted in the installation of piping and plumbing fixtures in the campus buildings, and later oversaw the operation and maintenance of the campus boiler system. He also attended school at Poly Tech and received an Associate in Technology Degree in 1939. He was very pleased when Rocky Mountain College won the NAIA Basketball title this year.
Following his time at Poly Tech he began working for the Northern Pacific/Burlington Northern Railroad, as a signal helper in 1940. After 16 years as a signalman he was promoted to signal inspector in 1956. In 1970 he was promoted to Regional Signal Engineer and in 1981 became the Superintendent of Signals, a position he held until his retirement in 1983 after 43 years with the railroad. During this time he lived in Missoula, Livingston, St. Paul Park, MN, and Billings.
Joseph served in the Marine Corps from June 17, 1944 to June 29, 1946. After attending the 2nd infantry Training Regiment at Camp Pendleton, CA he served with the First Separation Company MCB in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He spent time on the island Saipan, Tientsin, China and in Okinawa, Japan. Joseph always considered it the highest honor to have served his country in World War II and was immensely proud to have been a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps.
It was while working on a Signal Crew in Butte, MT in 1943 that he met the love of his life and future wife, Eve Margaret Johns. Joseph and Eve were married on September, 8th 1946 in Butte and were married for over 61 years. Eve passed away on January 3, 2008.
Joseph is survived by his children; JoEve Aikins of Shelby, MT, Darlyn (Don) LaDuke and Joseph Elpel Jr. of Livingston, MT, Bonnie Johansen of Phoenix, AZ; and Shawn (Danette) Elpel of Lacy, WA; his eight grandchildren; Sara and Justin (Loralee) Aikins, Toby and Kali(Mike Frederick) LaDuke; John, Jennifer, and Lisa Johansen; and Grant Elpel; by his two great grandchildren Tegan Lily and Chloe May Frederick; and his sister Agnes (Arthur) Tomsheck of Cut Bank, MT; and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Eve; two brothers, Gerald and Edwin; and sister Charlotte.
Joseph was the guiding light and steadying influence for all of his children. He was their hero, their rock to lean on and their security blanket to comfort them. But most of all he was their Dad, an he will be missed tremendously.
Cremation has taken place. Memorial Mass will be held at 11:00 A.M., Tuesday, May 12, 2009, at St. Pius X Catholic Church. Inurnment will follow at Calvary Cemetery, with military honors provided by the United States Marine Corp.
Memorials may be made to the RiverStone Hospice, P.O. Box 35033, Billings, MT 59107-5033.
A Thousand Ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone
As short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun
By Issac Watts
My sympathies to each of you… our dads are hard to lose, let alone when they are the last parent to go…
Julie Fink Hollar (class of ’71 PHS)
It is always the living that must face death head on. For this, I am truly saddened for the wonderful family Joe leaves behind. It is my hope that through fond memories and kind thoughts, Joe’s family can keep his memory alive. Not only for those who knew him well but also for the family he leaves behind that never had the opportunity to know him but want to know him. I want JoEve, Dar, Bonnie, Joe and Shawn to know that my heart is with you and I grieve with you the loss of your parents with the passing of Joe, Sr. Please know you are loved and not alone.
Just wanted to pass along my condolences on the loss of your dad. My thoughts are with you in this sad time.
Just a note to let you know I’m thinking of you and your sisters, brother and family.