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Elmer Dapron

1925 - 2019
Early Saturday morning, Aug. 17, 2019, Elmer "June" Dapron, beloved uncle and decorated Marine, passed away at age 94.

Elmer was born Jan. 14, 1925, in Clayton, to Elmer Dapron and wife Suzannah. He found a home and second family early in life when he joined the Marines in 1943. In 1977 Elmer married Sharon, and spent 10 years with the woman he always called the love of his life.

Elmer, along with his brother Robert, started life facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. Although their family was comfortable in the beginning, the Great Depression hit, and things took a drastic turn. They were homeless from a young age, living in the woods with their alcoholic father, while their mother stayed in St. Louis with their two sisters. Elmer worked as a laborer for the railroad with his father from age 14, cutting down trees and making ties. As the boys progressed through their teen years, they took their fate into their own hands, and walked dozens of miles to the city to find a better life. Hunting, fishing and eating out of dumpsters to survive, they worked on plans to get an education in order to leave a life of homelessness and poverty behind. Throughout these early hardships, Elmer was determined to make something of himself and of life. He taught himself to read by pulling magazines and newspapers from trash cans and dumpsters. Through the help and kindness of others, the brothers found a family with the Hughes, who took them both in. They worked on the family farm and in the kitchen, developing a love for food, family and the joy those two things can provide.

As World War II became an inevitability, both young men enlisted in the military. Elmer chose the U.S. Marine Corps as his new family. He fought honorably and bravely, eventually fighting on Iwo Jima during the fateful final battle that culminated in the iconic raising of the American flag.

Elmer's years after the war are full of some pretty grand tales of adventures in Alaska, travels all over the U.S. as a laborer, and there is always something in there about working for the CIA. He was a pretty great storyteller, so his friends and family just listened, enjoyed and assumed there were some embellishments for effect.

After years as a civilian, Elmer was called back to duty for the Korean War. Once again, he bravely served the U.S. and the Marines, ending up at the battle of the Chosin Reservoir and going down in history as one of the "Frozen Chosin." When he told the story of that time, his family would get chills hearing about the terror, the cold, the hunger, and the exhaustion. The lives of the refugees Elmer's company and other U.N. military forces saved were forever changed for the better because of their service and sacrifice.

Although many people don't know about the battle at Chosin, Elmer described Iwo Jima as "a cakewalk in comparison!" The Marines reported battle casualties of 4,385, and 7,338 non-battle casualties due to the cold weather. For the rest of his life, Elmer couldn't stand being cold, and was often found wearing long sleeves on a hot summer day. He and the other Marines, soldiers and U.N. forces helped to save more than 86,000 refugees from Hugnam. The evacuation was made possible by a declaration of national emergency by President Truman issued on Dec. 16, 1950, and is known as the Miracle of Christmas. Elmer spent his life as a devotee of President Truman.

Elmer made it home safely, but the stresses war put on his body earned him a "disabled" status upon discharge. Never one to let life keep him down, he worked hard and made a name for himself in the advertising field. In the years before and after the Korean war, from 1948-1956, Elmer worked for the McDonnell Douglas Corporation as a technical writer and editor. Imagine a man who had no formal education and who taught himself to read, working as a writer. This one example completely sums up his grit, determination and intellect.

In 1954 Elmer took a "contract" with a government agency and ended up doing some work for the British government. Through this work and his success, the queen sent Lord Kitchner to the Anglican Church in Creve Coeur to visit Elmer. On this visit Elmer was knighted, Sir Elmer Dapron!! Although he would never tell any details, he often alluded to "work done for the CIA." Although he was quite the fantastical storyteller, there was always a heavy dose of truth mixed in with each story.

Elmer was clearly an incredibly talented writer, but he was also a lover of adventure. He spent 1957 as a freelance journalist, living in Paris, Havana and Belize. In 1958 he began his long and impressive career in the advertising field. Elmer spent decades in the advertising industry and became known as an expert in food and agriculture. He was the go-to man and coordinated campaigns for a number of multinational corporations, all while continuing to travel and amassing an incredible amount of awards for excellence in his field.

It was during this time that he met his beloved wife Sharon. She was his secretary, and 20 years his junior, but Elmer was never one to let social convention stop him from pursuing a beautiful woman. Although he was a well-known ladies' man, and enjoyed relationships with a number of special women throughout his lifetime, Elmer would always say that Sharon was his one true love. Sharon began working as a photographer in the advertising field, and they traveled the world together working on various campaigns. In 1977 they eloped in Guam, and eventually traveled to more than 34 countries together. They did not have children, and Sharon passed away in 1987.

In 1977, Elmer conceived of Elmer's Grocery List, one of his proudest career accomplishments. Elmer's Grocery List was a radio segment which provided information about food and agriculture along with recipes and shopping advice. It was heard on 70 radio stations from Maine to Hawaii, and also aired three times a day every 24 hours over all 385 stations of the Armed Forces Radio Network, garnering a loyal audience in 57 countries. The love and comfort of food he learned so many years ago while working on the Hughes' farm was now forging a path for him in life and career.

Elmer continued his career in business and advertising, and eventually ran for governor of Missouri in 1992. Although he did not win, this was an incredible accomplishment for a homeless kid with no formal education who taught himself to read. Elmer truly embodied the American Dream. Throughout his desire to always better himself by reaching further in his career and life, to his incredible service to his country with the U.S. Marine Corps, to his incredible adventures while traveling the world, Elmer had a nearly unmatched zest for life.

Although no longer on active duty after the Korean War, Elmer was a Marine to the end. He joined his first Marine Corps League group around 1953. Although he switched between different attachments over the years, he was always active with his Marine Corps family. One of Elmer's most passionate projects was the Korean Task Force, a project focusing on long-term peace, respect and friendship between the USA and South Korea.

His family, especially his nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews, grew up hearing the true tales of his incredible life. Elmer was always, and still remains, a treasured member of the Dapron family. Many of the family can tell the stories with almost as many details as he did, from having the privilege of hearing them at family gatherings and holidays over the last 70 years. Just ask them about the opossum pie!

Elmer is survived by his nieces and nephews, as well as many great-nieces and great-nephews.

Visitation will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at Martin Funeral Home, 510 E. Main St., Warrenton.

A funeral service will start at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 23.

Burial will follow at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to St. Joseph's Indian School, a Native American nonprofit, at 1301 N. Main St., Chamberlain, SD 57325.

The family is being served by Martin Funeral Home, Warrenton.
Published in The Warren County Record on Aug. 22, 2019
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