Elmer Bjorlie was born on January 30, 1926 and passed into eternity on October 13, 2021 at the NCHS Care Center in McVille, ND. He was preceded in death by parents Peder & Laura (Quam) and by two brothers and their wives: Arnold (Lorena) and Seymour (Dorothy).
He is survived by his wife of 34 years Brenda (Holt) and two step-children: Mary De’ (Tim) Hurr and Sheri Kay Gearhart (Keith Luckett). Also surviving are his first wife, Liv (Lundeby) and five children: Peter (Kathy), Anna (Timothy Donahue), John (Ann), Paul (Crysti), Laura (Chris Harmon), 30 grandchildren and 56 great grandchildren as well as several nephews, nieces, and their families.
Elmer rode horse from the family farm to the Pekin elementary school each day. His teacher called him “a clever boy” who wrote poetry and loved to draw. He aspired to design automobiles and later studied architecture at North Dakota State University. In high school he pitched for the baseball team and played piano at every opportunity. Politics was a keen interest for Elmer who supported the Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party. He had a quick wit and drew political cartoons for publications and local newspapers.
He was a self-taught musician who did not read music and when asked to play would say, “Let me get my sheet music.” He then would place a long list of the songs he liked to play on the piano. He could play any tune by listening to a few bars and jumping right in with his bebop style. Elmer played with a local band, the Pekin Playboys, and later with the Old Tyme Kings.
In the early 1950s he accepted a position with Farmer’s Union Insurance and established his business in Valley City, North Dakota. He moved to Billings, Montana in 1975, became an insurance adjuster, married Brenda on December 5, 1987 and retired to Pekin, ND in 1992.
Elmer will be remembered for his reserved demeanor and advocacy for equality on every level. When he joined the army and was stationed in the deep south for a time he was shocked to see “whites only” signs as common. He taught his children to never use racial slurs and to treat everyone with respect. Later, he signed a petition and renounced his membership to the Elks Lodge since minorities were not allowed to become members.
Memorial Donations are appreciated to the Nelson County Arts Council, PO Box 83, Pekin, ND 58361
Visitation: 2:00 PM. Memorial Service: 3:00 PM on Saturday, October 30, 2021 at Sheyenne Lutheran Church, Pekin, ND. Interment: Sheyenne Lutheran Church Cemetery.
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