Elsie Johns Whelchel, 98, of Baker City, died April 9, 2009, at Ashley Manor Care Center.

Entombment was today at River View Cemetery in Portland.

Elsie Johns Whelchel was born on Sept. 23, 1910, at Smith Center, Kan., to Clyde Carleton Johns and Minnie Belle Nichols. A farm family, in 1918 they moved to the bench at Emmett, Idaho.

Elsie attended Emmett High School and the College of Idaho, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music. She married her high school sweetheart, Harold Carver Whelchel in 1933. Carver also attended the College of Idaho and graduated with a degree in music.

They traveled to several towns in Idaho teaching music and finally settled at Lake Oswego in the early 1940s.

Elsie started a private musical kindergarten in 1948. While caring for 3- to 5-year-old children, she also taught them music. At each graduation ceremony all the children would march in a parade with their drums, triangles and sticks accompanying a Philip Sousa march. She finally sold the business after 20 years of teaching.

Elsie was an accomplished pianist and a longtime member of Portland Music Clubs. She didn’t start playing a church pipe organ until her 40s. She was the organist for the Lake Grove Presbyterian Church for 40 years, tried to retire, but the Stafford Baptist Church heard she was available and asked her to be their organist. She was their church organist for another 15 years.

Elsie moved to Baker City in 2007 to be closer to her daughter, Janice Cowan.

Survivors include a sister, Elva Bass of Boise; a daughter, Janice Cowan of Baker City; sons, Carleton Whelchel of Palmdale, Calif., and James Whelchel of San Francisco; 10 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by a daughter, Maxine Tura; her husband, Harold Carver Whelchel; two brothers, Marion and Richard Johns; and a sister, Lily Dresser.

Memorial contributions may be made to the United Methodist Church Music Fund through Coles Funeral Home, 1950 Place St., Baker City, OR 97814.

Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, April 15, 2009
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor