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Gary Elder was a helpful teacher, adventurous explorer

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 | 10:16 p.m. CDT; updated 10:55 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 22, 2012

COLUMBIA — Gary Wayne Elder always had a passion for teaching and for mentoring children. Throughout his career, which lasted around 30 years, Mr. Elder was especially passionate about helping autistic and mentally disabled children.

"(He would use) his own money and his own time to help kids," his son David Elder said. "He would do anything to help them advance and achieve their goals."

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Mr. Elder died on Monday, May 7, 2012. He was 60.

Mr. Elder was born Nov. 30, 1951, to James and Jaunita (Griggs) Elder. He graduated from MU with a bachelor's degree in education in the early 1970s before moving to the St. Louis area. Mr. Elder became a full-time special education teacher in the late 1980s. Four years ago, he moved to California and continued teaching special education classes in Ridgecrest.

"He would coach sports, teach life skills and help (special needs students) find jobs," his son Jason Elder said.

Mr. Elder was loved and respected by his students, family members said. David Elder said that during a memorial service earlier this month in Ridgecrest, Calif., a student of Mr. Elder's gave Jason Elder a rose.

The young girl was crying so hard that she couldn't talk.

The girl's mother told Jason Elder that when his father had started teaching her daughter, the girl hadn't been able to read. With Mr. Elder's help, she had gained literacy.

"She read her first book the weekend right before his passing," David Elder said.

Mr. Elder’s sister Patsy Wyatt said that her brother always put everybody before himself and that he was always patient.

"He wanted everybody to have an education. That was his goal," said Bill Wyatt, Mr. Elder’s brother-in-law.

In his free time, Mr. Elder liked to play sports.

"He was a fisher, hunter, water skier and an archer. He liked anything outdoors," Bill Wyatt said.

Jason Elder described his father as an adventurous man.

"He would go out and take on any adventure or challenge," Jason Elder said.

David Elder remembers going on bass fishing trips with his father ever since he was very young. 

"We would go to Lake of Ozarks or Pomme De Terre a couple of times a year. We went camping there on weekends," David Elder said.

Mr. Elder is survived by his two sons, Jason Elder and David Elder of St. Charles; two sisters, Patsy Wyatt and her husband, Bill Wyatt, and Judy Lytle and her husband, Bob Lytle, all of Columbia; an aunt, Mildred Pomie, of Columbia; and many cousins, nephews, stepchildren, grandchildren, students and friends.

Mr. Elder's parents died earlier.

Services will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel, 1610 N. Garth Ave.

Condolences and tributes can posted at www.bachyager.com

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.


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