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David Stanley McElhineyAugust 3, 1926 ~ December 20, 2020 (age 94)
The earth lost a shining presence on December 20, 2020 when. Dr. David Stanley McElhiney, loving husband, adoring father of four daughters, WWII veteran, talented vocalist, esteemed educator and farmer from North America’s greatest generation, died at age 94. “Pap,” as he was affectionately known by his surviving four girls, his ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren, was born on August 3, 1926 in Ashland, Kansas to Percy and Grace (Curl) McElhiney. Throughout the Great Depression and the insufferable Dust Bowl era, David was instrumental to the success of the 1,460-acre McElhiney farm, as Grace had previously lost a son, Robert Earl, during childbirth, three years prior to David’s arrival. “Heartbreak Ridge,” as Pap dubbed it, was located on the high plains of Northwestern Oklahoma. The area was homesteaded in 1901 by the McElhiney family; led by their patriarch, Solomon Chambers. The McElhiney Homestead was often known to have a light burning in the northern upstairs bedroom as it served as an important landmark to the pioneers who continued to travel westward in the early 1900s or to local merchants who utilized the Fort Supply trail. It additionally served as a post office and doctor’s office during the great westward expansion.
David’s father, Percy, the second youngest of 13 children, was just 16 when the McElhiney clan journeyed from Missouri by covered wagons in search of fertile land. Too young to lay claim to land of his own, Percy trekked further to Colorado to live the life of a cowboy. After the death of his father, Percy returned in 1917 to oversee the farm, care for his mother, Letta Elizabeth, and later marry Grace in 1921. The McElhiney homestead served as a livestock operation from the early 1900s throughout the mid-sixties, where primarily Hereford cattle were grazed on the shortgrass prairie. Hogs, chickens and staple crops of wheat, alfalfa and barley were also crucial in their agricultural efforts, as they were for the other local farms located on every quarter section throughout Harper country, Oklahoma.
David’s love of learning was instilled in him by his Mother, who served as a highly respected teacher and superintendent of the Laverne Public Schools. He later began his formal education at Prairie View elementary school, a mile east of the McElhiney Homestead, traveling there on horseback with his older sister, Earleen (1924) and younger sister, Joan (1931). David was taught first grade and later 6th grade by his mother, who was also instrumental in teaching the Sunday school services at the Baptist church in Laverne. At times, David, Earleen and Joan would pick up a ride to the one room schoolhouse with the local schoolmaster who was known to live with the McElhiney’s. David graduated valedictorian in 1943, at the age of 16 from Roston Highschool where he was an avid baseball and basketball player. His graduating class of thirteen included his older sister Earleen and his best buddy, Andy Bill. David and Andy Bill had their share of good times in the early 40’s including the infamous horse race where Pap, riding “Pony Boy,” his 14-hand high mustang-mix, outran Andy Bill’s locally renown Thoroughbred horse out of elite racing stock. On more than one occasion, Pap and Andy Bill sacrificed their lunch money for a quick trip into town during their school lunch break to play a game of ”pool-hall” pitch in the local tavern in Roston. (This version of pitch was later taught to his children and grandchildren!).
After completing the summer Harvest of ’43, David headed off to Northwestern State University in Alva, Oklahoma where he studied chemistry, sang in the barber shop quartet, performed in college theatre productions and worked at the local filling station, honing his skills as an auto mechanic. As a college student living only 30 minutes from the McElhiney farm, David would continue to harvest wheat and assist his father in running the operations there. With the War in Pacific escalating, Pap’s call to duty came in the Spring of 1944 at age 17. Although he could have taken a deferment as the only son to run the family farm, David was determined to serve his country and enlisted in the Navy. After initial military medical inspections and vaccinations, the train in Oklahoma City took David to Farragut, Idaho where he completed basic naval training and was later sent to San Diego for his initiation and deployment on the destroyer, U.S.S Caperton DD650, where he served as a radio operator. David witnessed the culmination of WWII in the pacific including the infamous battle of Okinawa. Although the navy offered officer training for David after the war, he declined, instead, responding to the call of his ancestors, including his duties to care for his parents and provide for the well-being of the homestead.
The need for increased energy demands in the U. S. as well as heightened interest in oil prospects in Oklahoma, prompted David’s aspirations to excel as a chemical engineer after his return from the war. Instead of proceeding to the University of Oklahoma to obtain an advanced degree in chemical engineering, however, David remained at Northwestern in order to be close to the Farm. In 1948 he received his Bachelor of Science, in Chemistry, from Northwestern State University, Alva Oklahoma, where he met the love of his life; his true soulmate: Shirley Ann Braly, daughter of Murlin and Hattie Braly of Buffalo, Oklahoma. It was Shirley’s high school graduation picture David spotted on Shirley’s older brother Bert’s dorm room shelf that captured David’s eye and prompted him to court this beautiful, bubbly, musical, and charismatic woman. The two were married in July of 1949 in Buffalo, OK. and were happily married for nearly 72 years. David and Shirley spent the next eight years in Oklahoma where David initially taught 6th grade in Gage, Oklahoma, then transferred to Mooreland, OK where he served as assistant principal and later principal of the Mooreland high school. Daughters Ann Kathleen, Marilyn Camille and Mona Christine came along in 1951,1953, and 1957. An exciting offer soon came from Wichita, Kansas where David continued his career in administrative education. David served as assistant principal of Truesdell Junior high and later principal at Allison Junior high in Wichita. Daughter Julie Joan came along in 1960. Soon after, David moved his family to Stillwater, Oklahoma for a year in 1964, in order to complete his PhD in education at Oklahoma State University. The family returned to Wichita in 1965. It wasn’t’ long before the Wichita public school system noticed a shining star in David. As a gifted speaker and natural at relating to young adults, Pap’s career peaked as he advanced to Director of Secondary education. Although he retired in 1990 from the Wichita public schools, David’s skills were too valuable to lay aside. Wichita State University recruited him for the next few years to teach education administration to graduate students.
As a true patriot, David served at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Wichita for 12 years. He was also a huge patron of the arts in Wichita, Supporting not only the Wichita Symphony but his favorite: Music Théâtre of Wichita. All four of his daughters have exhibited their father’s love of music: Kathy, playing mandolin and steel guitar in a bluegrass band in Kansas; Camille, directing strings in the Wichita Public Schools and playing cello in Wichita Symphony, Music Theatre of Wichita and local symphony quartet gigs, Christy singing in her Church’s Praise and Worship team in Kearney, NE and Julie, playing violin with the Mesa symphony, fiddling for local Queen Creek gigs and playing keys and violin with her Church’s Praise and Worship team.
David was preceded in death by his father and Mother and his two sisters. He is survived by his wife, Shirley, his four daughters, 10 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren as well as numerous nieces and nephews. A private family service honoring David was held on his passing. In lieu of flowers you may send donations to Music Theatre of Wichita 225 West Douglas Unit # 202, Wichita, KS 67202.
Music Theatre of Wichita
225 West Douglas Unit 202, Wichita KS 67202