Sioux Falls, SD 57108
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Robert "Bob" Elmen

1930 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Robert "Bob" Elmen Obituary
Robert "Bob" Elmen

Sioux Falls, SD - Robert Charles Elmen, 88, died peacefully on July 26th, 2018, at Touchmark - All Saints in Sioux Falls, surrounded by his loving family. Bob's last weeks and days were filled with treasured stories and memories shared by his children and grandchildren - all of whom are grateful for his loving presence in their lives.

Visitation will take place at Heritage Funeral Home on Thursday, August 23 from 4:00-6:00 pm. Memorial services will take place at Our Saviors Lutheran Church on Friday, August 24 at 2:00 p.m.

Bob - the oldest of three children - was born in Sioux Falls on July 23rd, 1930, to Lloyd and Sylva (Hellie) Elmen. He attended Longfellow Elementary School, where he was active in Boy Scouts, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in 1947. After graduating from Washington High School in 1948, Bob attended Augustana College (now Augustana University) and joined the U.S. Navy Reserve. He earned a Master's in Economics from SDSU in 1966, and an Honorary Doctorate from Augustana in 1997.

In 1950, Bob met Rita Hale, the true love of his life, at the Carpenter Ballroom in Sioux Falls. They were married on November 15th, 1952, in Long Beach, California, while he was a Naval officer on the U.S.S. Blue during the Korean War. Together they had three children - Brenda, Julie, and Sarah. Bob took great pride in the accomplishments (large or small) of his children and, later, his grandchildren; to their benefit, he enjoyed being actively involved in their lives.

Bob had an entrepreneurial spirit that began in childhood, when he contributed to his family's income by growing tomatoes in a Sioux Falls community garden, and delivering them in his wagon to a local grocery store and a hospital kitchen. As the only supplier in town who replaced spoiled tomatoes on a daily basis, he quickly gained a reputation as a reliable and enterprising young businessman. Bob - along with his father, Lloyd, and his brother, Jim - built a business that grew to be the 8th largest equipment rental company in the United States, comprised of 50 stores operating in 7 states. In 1989, Bob and Jim established an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which benefited the employees greatly when the company was sold in 1999 to the publicly traded United Rental (URI).

In his 2015 book, Fifteen Fortunes: An Octogenarian Reflects on Life as an Entrepreneur, Bob describes how the hardscrabble work ethic of his Scandinavian ancestors, along with the financial insecurity of his childhood, motivated him to become an entrepreneur. He had this advice for others: "In order to achieve long-term success, it is important not to stop after your first fortune or failure, but to use what you learn from your triumphs and mistakes and keep going!"

Grateful to have shared Bob's adventurous life are his wife, Rita (Hale) Elmen, daughters Brenda (Dan) Ordal, Julie (Ken Gruys) Elmen, and Sarah (Bob) Kopp; grandchildren Christopher (Emily) Ordal, Erik Ordal, Emily Ordal, Kjerstin (Michael Ackermann) Gruys, Hanna (Nick) Gruys Setrakian, Peter Gruys, Alex Kopp, Sadie Kopp, and Julia Kopp; and sister Betty (Wayne) Sass. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lloyd and Sylva (Hellie) Elmen, and brother, James Elmen.

Bob's approach to life was passionate, principled, and inventive. He was a life-long learner and loved books and magazines. He often spent the early morning hours "catching up on his reading", and the rest of the day sharing his excitement about what he'd read. Bob will be lovingly remembered by family and friends for his inquisitiveness, wisdom, and generosity. Memorials can be directed to Good Earth State Park at Blood Run (, Augustana University, or Our Savior's Lutheran Church.
Published in The Argus Leader from July 29 to Aug. 19, 2018
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