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Elmlinger remembered as 'a big man with a big heart'

A Life Remembered

A Life Remembered

August 19, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Daniel John Elmlinger, who died Aug. 6 at the age of 60. His obituary appeared in the Aug. 8 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Eight days after Daniel J. Elmlinger died, his youngest daughter, Becky Elmlinger, learned that the baby she is expecting is a girl.

"I'm going to name her Danielle ... after my dad," Becky said. She and her boyfriend, Albert "Bud" Lewis, are looking forward to the birth of the child, who is due in early January.

The family is trying to focus on the blessed event while coping with their sorrow that Dan won't be there to experience his grandchild's birth. He died Aug. 6 at the age of 60.


Dan's life was very much about his children.

Dan's widow, Bobbie, said the first time she saw her future husband was 21 years ago as he played enthusiastically with his two older children on the playground at Hamilton Park.

"I didn't know him then, but I thought it was cool," Bobbie said, referring to his obvious love for those youngsters.

They didn't cross paths again until 1988, when Bobbie got a job at Arc of Washington County, where Dan was working with the developmentally disabled.

Bobbie said she recognized him right away.

"He had a great sense of humor and there were those steel blue eyes," she said.

Both of their first marriages ended in divorce. When they became friends in 1988, Bobbie was married to her second husband and Dan was engaged to his second wife.

In 1993, Bobbie was widowed and Dan again was divorced.

"When we married in 2000, it was the third marriage for each of us," Bobbie said. "But we got it right this time."

Bobbie and Dan were determined that their marriage would be more than a marriage of a couple, but also of their families.

"We were all at the altar together," Bobbie said. That included her daughter, Jessica Pettner; and Dan's three children, Joshua, Emily and Becky Elmlinger.

Becky said she loved how her father read to her and told stories that he often made up on the spot. He continued that tradition with his grandchildren.

If Dan had lived, Becky and Bud's daughter would have been his fourth grandchild. Dan loved and was loved by Kameron and Noah Pettner and Liam Elmlinger, all of whom called him "Pappy Dan."

"Dan was a big man with a big heart with enough love for everyone," Bud said. He and Dan used to indulge their mutual love of cars and sports.

Though Dan left Arc of Washington County in 1995 to join First Data, he never forgot the people he worked with there, Bobbie said.

"Three of Dan's former clients came to the viewing in wheelchairs," Bobbie said. "I was just overwhelmed."

A native of Ohio, Dan loved nature and being outdoors. His sister, Mary Pat Elmlinger of Kingsport, Tenn., described her older brother as "The Leader of the Pack" of their family when they were growing up.

Dan also was adept at making and keeping friends.

"The friendships he made lasted a lifetime," Mary Pat said in her e-mail about her brother.

Their family vacations to national parks usually had Dan leading the way for his siblings - the pack - as they hiked and camped and enjoyed his beloved outdoors.

When Dan moved to Hagerstown in the mid-1980s, he threw himself into bettering the area where he lived, and that led to his work with the Northwest Neighbors, part of Neighborhoods First USA.

The group of Carroll Heights and Hamilton Park residents was dedicated to improving the neighborhoods for themselves and their children.

An annual block party was held in the Hamilton Park playground, and Dan often helped organize the event and usually ended up cooking hot dogs, Bobbie said.

"We had the block party again this year, but Dan was in the hospital," Bobbie said.

When the party was over, the current chairman went to Dan's room at Washington County Hospital and told him all about it.

The grandchildren often visited Dan in the hospital, taking him presents they made, crawling into bed with him and telling him stories for a change.

Mary Pat described Bobbie as her brother's soulmate and a blessing to Dan, especially as he battled cancer.

"Dan always led with his heart," Mary Pat said.

Though the last few days have been difficult for all of Dan's family and friends, Bobbie said she was comforted by the look of peace on Dan's face.

"No more IVs, no more needles ... he struggled so hard those last few weeks, and the look of worry was gone from his face," she said.

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