Opal Pauline "Polly" Elarton was born on April 5, 1923 to parents Richard Cooper Welsh and Myrtle Elizabeth (Briley) Welsh in Haswell, Colorado. She was welcomed into the world by three older brothers: Richard Jerome (Emma) Welsh, William Albert (June) Welsh, and Frank Guthrie (Betty; Wanda) Welsh. She departed this life on October 31, 2020, in Canon City, Colorado, at the age of 97.
Pauline is survived by son Eldon Eugene "L.D." Elarton and daughter-in-law Mary Theresa (Schmitt) Elarton; Grandchildren Eldon Ryan (Diane) Elarton, Vincent Scott (Laurie) Elarton, Shelly Erin (Chris) Frisby, and Mary Shannon Elarton; Great grandchildren Damon, Morgan, Kenan, and Chloe Elarton, and Mary and Bryce Frisby; Nieces and nephews Robert (Sharon) Welsh, Ronald (Diane) Welsh, Joyce Toohey, Betty (Dusty) Boley, Barbara (Minaloy) Teal, James (White) Welsh, Anna (White) Welsh, Larry (Donna) Norlin, and Donna Bohlander; Cousin Lorene (Verle) Welsh and their children Debbie (Mike) West, Sharolyn, and Leslie (Audrey) Welsh; and her special Christian friend Mildred Dreessen.
Pauline's early years were spent on the Eastern Plains of Colorado during difficult economic times. By the time she entered school the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had its grip on the region and the nation. A significant portion of the Great Plains, including Eastern Colorado, was stricken with serious drought. Seeking better economic times, the family moved to the Wet Mountain Valley and lived near Westcliffe, Colorado. Pauline graduated from Custer County High School in 1939 at the age of 16. Shortly thereafter, the family moved back to the Plains to Hasty, Colorado. There, her parents had a dairy and an ice house during the construction of John Martin Dam.
It was in Hasty where Pauline met Eldon Reid Elarton when he came to purchase ice one day. A romance blossomed and the couple was married on November 12, 1941 just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As the draft picked up momentum, Reid enlisted in the United States Navy and went on active duty early in the spring of 1942. As the war escalated, Pauline became part of the women's home-side war effort. Over the next three years she worked at Aircraft Mechanics in Colorado Springs and later Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego, California. Her primary work assignment was as a drill press operator, doing precision drilling of aircraft fuselages. Polly's claim to fame (jokingly) was that Rosie the Riveter would have not had a job if Polly had not drilled the holes first.
During World War II, and when Reid's ship was in port, Pauline made several train trips to Eastern U.S. Naval bases including New York City, Norfolk, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina. They enjoyed the big band music of the day and were able to dance to the music of several of the well known big bands including those of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.
Upon discharge as World War II ended, Reid and Polly located in La Junta, Colorado where Reid worked as a mechanic for the cab company owned by Polly's uncle Charlie Briley. Within a few months son Eldon "L.D." was born. The family of three lived for two years at the La Junta Village, now which for many years has been the Colorado Boys Ranch. With the end of the war demand for taxi service in La Junta declined and Reid and Polly moved to Hugo, Colorado and opened a fuel and service station with an adjoining restaurant. Reid ran the station, while Polly ran the cafe. Business was good, but after three years Reid leased a Shamrock filling station on East Colfax in Denver. That business never took off, and Reid and Polly brought an A&W Root Beer franchise to Lamar, Colorado. Business was terrific! The North Main Street location became the turnaround during the "dragging main" era. To this day, many people say they would give anything for one of Polly's Zip Burgers and an order of delicious fresh cut french fries. After a dozen years the business was sold, but soon they opened Reid's Drive Inn, a similar eatery, in La Junta and added to their excellent reputation.
As the years passed, four grandchildren came along and provided broad and fun entertainment for grandma and grandpa. They were always the first spectators to arrive at the gym or field, regardless of where the game was being played. Polly loved watching those grandkids play ball. In later years traveling to family gatherings, including the appearance of six great grandkids, became the highlight of Polly's life.
Opal Pauline Elarton was a lifelong Christian Lady and longtime member of the Mount Zion Christian Church.
Preceding Pauline in death were her husband of 62 years Eldon Reid Elarton, her parents, siblings and each of their spouses, sister-in-law and good buddy Dorothy Mae Norlin/Abeyta, nephews William Welsh, Charles Welsh, Larry Welsh, and Jerry Welsh.
Graveside services will be held at the Fairview Cemetery in Salida, Colorado on Saturday, November 7, 2020 at 1:00 PM, Pastor Wayne Davis officiating. Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of your choice through Lewis & Glenn Funeral Home, or just take your family out for a burger, fries, and a soft drink in Polly's honor. On line condolences may be sent to the family at lewisandglenn.com.
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