John Alvin Elmer was born the son of Alvin J. and Merle (Johnson) Elmer October 20, 1943 in Rock Springs, Sweetwater, WY. He was welcomed home by his parents and sisters Judy and Nola. They had recently moved to Birch Creek, Utah and built a 2-room cabin to welcome their new baby home. Dad had not gotten the linoleum laid so the night mother and John came home from the hospital, late that night Dad prepared the rough lumber floor by scattering hay over it to pad the linoleum. Dad pulled the burning cook stove up with chains and laid the linoleum under the stove and across the room and tacked it down. Our new humble home was ready for winter. No electricity, the bathroom was up the hill and the water was in the spring pipe, we bathed in a tin bathtub.
John went to school in McKinnon with his mother as his teacher. The school had 4 rooms with 3 grades in each room, with 4 teachers. No indoor bathrooms and the kitchen was down in the basement. The school bus sometimes was a truck with a canvas over the top and benches on the sides. In 1949 it was a team and sleigh full of hay driven by Alton Beck. That Spring the sleigh turned into a white cart pulled by a team. Mud was deep but we had lots of memories.
His musical debut was to lead the percussion band for a Christmas play. All the kids wore white caped with red trim, but John being the conductor wore a nice hat that matched. He was only a 1st grader, but because he had good rhythm, he was chosen to lead grades 1-6 in that band. He was a real hit.
When John was about in 5th grade, they started running a bus from Birch Creek to Manilla because we lived in Utah. There were 13 of us and it was a mighty dusty and cold ride. John enjoyed playing basketball for several years at Manilla. He had gotten tall and could hold his own on the ball floor. It was fun to watch him play for the Manilla Mustangs.
He and Jim were playing, throwing bark at each other when John was hit in the eye and became blind in his right eye. It was darker and he always loved to joke with people. He was getting a hunting license when they asked him what color his eyes were…black and… blue. The lady looked up, mad because he was being smart, and said, “…I’ll be darned!”
John went to his last two years of high school in Green River and graduated from Green River High School. He stayed with Grandpa and Grandma Stoll.
He started playing the guitar when he was about 14, and he was very shy to sing but soon the requests were coming in for him to perform. He started a dance band and it was very popular. Younger brother Jim sang and played with him a lot and Ben Stoll played with him for awhile. Every weekend they played at the Villa at Manilla. Kim Stoll said, “John was an entertainer, one of the finest. His band used to keep the Villa jumping about 3 feet off the ground every weekend for years.” He played all over the west for years. He had one of the best bands in Wyoming, his band was called Johnny and the Ridge Runners. The harmony between John and Jim could not have been better. They lacked the capital to go big and cut records. That was a shame because many people said they liked them better than the original artist on many songs. Through the years he met and sometimes played with Tex Ross, Tommy Overstreet, Bobby Baer, and Waylon Jennings.
He truly had a gift, and he practiced many hours, but it was not a very good life for a family man and in later years he regretted not having more time with his family.
John’s dad was a timber man, so John learned early in life to work in the timber and at the sawmill. He was a hard worker and could skid logs with horses, cut the trees down, drive the truck and caterpillar loader. He learned to run the sawmill and be the sawyer and cut the lumber. Soon he was driving big loads of logs off the mountain down the steep roads and driving truckloads of lumber to the mines in Utah. As hard as he worked it seemed there was never enough money to go around and keep all the equipment running and it again was not very good for a family man. He cut wood and delivered it to the campgrounds in the Uinta Mountains for years.
He had more surgery on his eye, so he stayed in Vernal with his sister Judy for a couple of years. Her family loved him, and they became very close. He always loved Judy and appreciated her for her love and hospitality. Through thick and thin Judy was always there for him. They had a special relationship.
He became an electrician and worked construction. He worked a lot bending conduit on big jobs. He was strong and had an eye to bend it right. He also sold mobile homes for his brother Jim in Rock Springs, Wyoming. John and Jim were as close as brothers could get. They worked together in the timber, selling mobile homes, they hunted together, fished together, looked for Spanish gold together and Jim was always there for John.
He moved to Evanston to be closer to family and lived in Tender Hearts and Rocky Mountain. He always said he was good not to worry about him. He appreciated the good care and so many that helped him.
He was preceded in death by his father Alvin Elmer, his mother Merle Elmer, his brother Jim Elmer and sister Judy Brighton. John is survived by his sister children Stacey (Troy) Gatherum; Nick (Cindi) Elmer; Tina (Jim) Johnson; Charles (Tomilynn) Elmer; Snow Palmisano; and William (Jamie) Elmer; Sister Nola (Rodney) Bluemel of Lyman; 20 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, January 9, 2021; 2:00 PM at Crandall Funeral Home 800 Uinta St., Evanston.
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