He was born July 13, 1932, in Dell Rapids, South Dakota, to Nic and Elizabeth Penning. He was one of 14 children and raised on the family farm near Dell Rapids. He graduated in 1950 from St. Mary’s Catholic School, working at JF Anderson Lumber Company in Trent, South Dakota, until he was drafted into the Army in 1952.
Between basic training and a leadership course at Camp Roberts, California, he married Margaret “Peggy” Carol Hammond, on Jan. 12, 1953, in Hardin, Montana. Peggy then stayed with her family in Montana while Elmer was deployed to Korea, serving as a ‘forward observer’. On the way, he was able to meet his brother in Camp Fuji, Japan, who was on his way back from Korea.
He returned home to his job at the lumber company, soon managing in Trent, South Dakota. He always volunteered in many civic duties, even designing the school gymnasium. Anderson Lumber Company asked him to remodel and manage the lumber company in Nashua, Iowa, and he also bought and managed a Redi-mix plant as well.
In 1964, he left his management job to use his talents to serve in missionary work and moved his family to Bethlehem, South Dakota, to volunteer at what was then a Monastery. He was responsible for much of the concrete work, buildings and grounds. He also worked with 50 youth each summer who would come from Canada to volunteer. This was his Catholic faith at work.
In 1967, he moved his family to Belle Fourche when he went to work for Robbins and Stearns Lumber Company out of Rapid City, retiring after 18 years of service. In 1986 he managed for Neiman Sawmills, Inc. in Hulett, Wyoming retiring in 1992 to tend his gardens, orchards and grandchildren. He was a member of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, lectoring for 18 years as well as being involved in many volunteer projects.
Grateful for having shared his life is his wife, Peggy, three daughters, Carleen Liggett & Cathy (Clark) Sowers, Belle Fourche, Peggy Sue (Dave) Mutchler of Keystone, six sons; Brett (ReNette), Tom (Mary), Chris (Sharon) of Hulett, Wyoming, Mike (Sheri) of Belle Fourche, Shawn (Jennifer) Saginaw, Michigan and Les (Debbie) Sundance, Wyoming; 38 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, four brothers, two sisters, son, Joseph, grandson, Michael and great-grandson Josef.
Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 26, at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, with burial to follow at noon at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis. Pallbearers will be his six sons, Brett, Mike, Tom, Chris, Shawn and Lester Penning and grandson, Joe Penning. Condolences may be left at www.klinefuneralchapel.com. The family suggests memorials to any prolife group.