“I leave a family that no man could have loved any more.” At Elmer’s wishes this will be written on his tombstone. The family Elmer is referring to is one that started with what he considered one of his greatest accomplishments: wooing the beautiful Bonnie Womble and convincing her to marry him in 1952. Happily married for 66 years, Elmer and Bonnie were blessed with three daughters and one son. His daughters include Marcie (Sam) Penland, Lynn (the late Phil) Duckett, Beth (Jim) Mabry, and son, Randy (Janice) Durden.
He was further blessed by nine grandchildren, Nicole Penland Bond, Tiffany Penland Boyle, Samuel Penland, Shawn Wofford, Cassandra Wofford Reece, Colby Durden Baker, Charis Durden Lacey, Jacob Mabry, Andrew Mabry; and nine great-grandchildren. Elmer will be remembered as a generous and loving grandfather.
Elmer and Bonnie married shortly after he served six years in the United States Air Force. They spent their early married years in Auburn, Ala., where Elmer earned his degree in textile engineering, at what is now Auburn University.
With that degree in hand, Elmer initially began his career working for Monsanto in Florida and Alabama and then moved to Ellijay to work with his dear college friend, Ralph Davis, as his plant manager at Davis Carpet. Later, Elmer went on to start D and T Industries, Charmayne Carpets and Whitepath Carpet Outlet in Ellijay. He later became a partner in Whitepath Fabtech. He retired in 1995, and lived part time in Biloxi, Miss., where his wife Bonnie had brothers and sisters.
In Biloxi, Elmer was able to pursue his great love of fishing. Far different from the cane pole ‘survival’ fishing of his early years. Elmer made regular trips out into the Gulf of Mexico to catch his favorite fish, the king mackerel. Trips regularly included his son, Randy, family members that shared his passion for fishing, and friends that traveled from Georgia. His favorite spot was to make a trip out to the oil rigs in the gulf. The lure of catching ‘just one more’ often made an unforgettable memory. Like the time violent gulf thunderstorms caused waves to swamp the boat. A long night swim to shore with a daughter and grandson in tow created an infamous adventure! At that point most people would have given up fishing. Elmer simply bought a bigger boat!
In addition to being a devoted husband and family man, he enjoyed serving his community in the Ellijay Lions Club, where he served a term as president. As a Christian, he regularly attended First Baptist Church of Ellijay and was a member for 49 years. He enjoyed the deep friendships made with so many people at First Baptist.
It was common for Elmer to recount his early years growing up in Porterdale, where his parents were sharecroppers. His impoverished early years made him especially grateful for the simplest things in life that are often taken for granted; a pair of shoes, a warm meal or a comfortable bed. He considered himself an especially blessed man and his final wishes were for friends and family to know that he had “lived the best life, had the best of everything, and mostly, that he had the best wife in all the world!”
Elmer died peacefully in his sleep to join his father and mother, Metz and Naomi Durden; brothers, James and Terrell Durden; and great-granddaughter Everly Baker ... and he will be waiting on the rest of his family at the pearly gates.
Visitation will be at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, Sunday, June 30 from 1-3 p.m., and the funeral will be at 4 p.m., in the sanctuary. The Rev. James Holt and the Rev. Glenn Cummings will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to support the Lighthouse for the Blind through the Ellijay Lions Club or to the hospice group Compassus.
Condolences can be made at www.bernhardtfh.com. Bernhardt Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.